More than a quarter of nursing home staff have not taken up the offer of regular Covid-19 testing despite the high level of infections in nursing homes.
Since June, staff have been offered free Covid-19 tests, with swabbing done in the nursing homes for convenience, and then sent off in batches for laboratory testing.
A HSE spokeswoman said there had been “an overall uptake of 73.4% of staff” with 505,375 tests done across 587 facilities.
She said there was a slight increase this month during the sixth round of testing which finished at the end of last year, rising to 76% uptake as compared to 70% in the first round.
The seventh round of testing started on January 4 and ramped up to weekly from fortnightly in mid-January.
Answering questions on serial testing earlier this month HSE chief operations officer Anne O’ Connor said: “Testing is not compulsory for anybody. I personally don’t think it is acceptable [to refuse a test].”
She also said vaccination is not compulsory but that the two issues are separate and could not be compared.
There are over 165 open outbreaks in nursing homes currently, which the Health Protection Surveillance Centre said is five times the number in mid-December.
#COVID19 Outbreak/Clusters in Ireland weekly report - focus on nursing homes and community hospitals, residential institutions, acute hospitals and an overview on other vulnerable populations https://t.co/oei1beGIjc pic.twitter.com/U6Lk0GFWrL— HSE Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) (@hpscireland) January 27, 2021
Nursing homes have been closed to visitors since Christmas under the level 5 restrictions. However, HSE head Paul Reid has frequently warned that as community transmission rates rise, the likelihood of staff catching the virus also increases.
Many nursing home staff have changed their own routines and live near-secluded lives as a result They include nurses, social care workers, healthcare assistants, cleaners, caterers and admin staff.
It can be difficult to avoid physical interaction with residents, due to some having physical disabilities or conditions like dementia.