Health chief explains change in testing criteria as two more Covid-19 deaths are announced

Health chief explains change in testing criteria as two more Covid-19 deaths are announced

Another two deaths from Covid-19 have been confirmed by the Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan.

They were a man and woman in the east of the country. The woman had an underlying health condition.

This brings to nine the number of fatalities in Ireland since the coronavirus emerged.

At its daily briefing, the Health Protection Surveillance Centre also confirmed 235 new cases as of 1pm today.

This now brings the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in Ireland to 1,564.

They said 55% of cases so far are male and 45% female, while the median age is 45.

Of the new cases, 39 are in intensive care while 283, or 24%, are healthcare workers.

The figures also revealed that community transmission accounts for 49% of positive cases, close contact accounts for 23% and travel abroad accounts for 28%

Dublin has highest number of cases at 559 followed by Cork at 133.

The Department of Health say that contact tracing for patients is now down to about five contacts per case, which indicates social distancing is working.

Dr Holohan says he has not seen any signs of complacency.

"People are worried and a little more concerned which we understand, our view is that many more people are seeking testing that is well beyond what is feasible," he said.

"Over a week or so we predicted 350 or so cases per day by now, we haven't seen that.

"It's too early for us to conclude if this is down to social distancing, but from contact tracing it shows people are taking note of the advice."

The Department of Health changed the criteria for testing for Covid-19 today, now stating that to be tested, a person must have at least two symptoms and priority given to vulnerable groups.

Concerns were flagged about the policy change that it would result in a decrease in testing.

Dr Holohan said: “Our data showed yesterday that only 6% of our tests so far returned positive; so for every 100 people we test we are only finding 6 people with Covid-19. In light of this, our case definition changed.

“Changing case definition is a standard practice in managing pandemics.

Ultimately, we want our 6% detected rate to increase, we want to find as many people as possible with Covid-19, isolate them and contain the spread.

Dr Ronan Glynn, Deputy Chief Medical Officer said that it was not the case that the department was trying to hide figures as the testing has a focus on those who are vulnerable and those who are at the highest risk to exposure.

"The primary purpose of testing in the first instance is a public health purpose to help us understand the extent of the disease, to ensure we're contact tracing and to ensure it doesn't spread.

The key to that is testing as many people as we can, it's why testing per capita in Ireland is up there with the best in the world.

"That remains our strategy, but what we've said over last 24 hours, the vast majority of people have been tested have tested negative, what we've done in response is to tighten the case definition, that we're picking up the people who have the disease and target resources more effectively at tracing their contacts.

"Our plan is to test as many as possible but in the short term, we're targeting the most vulnerable groups.

"Over the coming weeks we plan to test more and more people."

Dr Colm Henry, Chief Clinical Officer with the HSE, said: “There has been ongoing engagement with GPs over the past 24 hours. GPs are best placed to advise individuals with symptoms whether they need a test or not.

"Ultimately, the test has no impact on the clinical course of this disease and the priority for anyone with symptoms is to isolate themselves.”

    Useful information
  • The HSE have developed an information pack on how to protect yourself and others from coronavirus. Read it here
  • Anyone with symptoms of coronavirus who has been in close contact with a confirmed case in the last 14 days should isolate themselves from other people - this means going into a different, well-ventilated room alone, with a phone; phone their GP, or emergency department;
  • GPs Out of Hours services are not in a position to order testing for patients with normal cold and flu-like symptoms. HSELive is an information line and similarly not in a position to order testing for members of the public. The public is asked to reserve 112/999 for medical emergencies at all times.
  • ALONE has launched a national support line and additional supports for older people who have concerns or are facing difficulties relating to the outbreak of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) in Ireland. The support line will be open seven days a week, 8am-8pm, by calling 0818 222 024

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