The director general of the HSE Paul Reid has said that the health service can carry out the target of 100,000 Covid-19 tests per week and had carried out 103,000 tests in the past week with 99,000 lab results completed in the same time period.
“We will always meet demand (for testing),” he told RTÉ radio’s News at One. More than 15,000 tests per day were being carried out, with the figure closer to 18,000 at present, he said.
But the best lines of defence were what the public could do, he added. Their actions could put a drain on that capacity, he warned.
Funding was not a constraint, but everyone was concerned about the hospitalisation numbers which were beginning to have an impact on non-Covid care.
This in turn will mean the demand for intensive care beds will build according to Mr Reid.
There is a real concern about winter services in hospitals. All healthcare workers were very concerned, he said. They don’t want to be the last line of defence. There was now a call to arms to the public to protect heath care workers.
In the event of a surge the system had capacity for 350-360 intensive care beds. Using high dependency and post operative beds could expand that. However, some hospitals were already using their surge capacity, he said.
The growing case numbers in nursing homes were also a cause for concern, but it would be impossible to “put a ring of steel” around nursing homes.
Again it was up to the public to modify their behaviour, said Mr Reid.
With regard to increased testing in nursing homes, Mr Reid said 220,000 such tests had been carried out to date and there was a lot of “self swabbing” going on.
“Whatever is the right thing to do, we will mobilise.” If weekly tests were required then they would be done, he said.
Meanwhile, it is not clear when, or if, issues surrounding the supply of the flu vaccine will be cleared up, according to the Irish Pharmacy Union.
The union is calling for people to bear with pharmacies after global supply issues led to a significant delay in deliveries of the jab.
It says tireless work is being carried out to ensure those in at-risk groups are prioritised to get the vaccine as soon as possible.
However, the IPU admits the delay has serious potential to undermine this year's vaccination programme.