Some 15%, or around 100,000 people, with appointments for Covid-19 swabbing have not shown up for a test since the start of the pandemic, official figures have shown.
According to Niamh O’Beirne, the HSE’s national lead for testing and tracing, data is not available on appointments cancelled. The 15% figure only refers to people who did not turn up for appointments across the country.
Ms O’Beirne was replying to Cork East TD for Labour, Sean Sherlock, who said: "These figures underpin the importance of attending all swab appointments and adhering to public health advice if considered a close contact.
"The news of a vaccine is welcome but it has yet to become the silver bullet. Over 100,000 people have not attended appointments. That is a stark figure.”
Mr Sherlock said anecdotal evidence from contact tracers of people not answering calls when contacted is also troubling.
“If this is true, then contact tracing services should log unsuccessful attempts to reach people to create a real-time picture so that the efficacy of the system can be measured,” he said.
According to a breakdown by community healthcare organisations of appointments attended, the number of people who had shown up for appointments was over 595,000 as of this week.
The HSE’s data hub on Covid-19 shows that 74,900 tests were done in the seven days up to last Wednesday. The current positivity rate is 3.6%.
Last month, Ms O’Beirne said in reply to Sinn Féin TD, Rose Conway Walsh, that in non-attendance cases, those individuals are contacted and offered another test date.
She added: “We would not keep figures - we do not have the metrics - for those who had their test redone as to whether Covid was detected or not detected.”
There are 37 test centres nationwide, while most also offer a drive-through service. The test itself takes about 15 minutes, according to the HSE.
Health minister Stephen Donnelly said that there is now capacity to test up to 126,000 people per week, which can be increased to 140,000 per week by utilising available surge capacity with the HSE’s German lab partner.