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The ICGP said it welcomes the widening of Covid-19 testing criteria but has warned of “unacceptable” waiting times if test capacity is not available.
Dr Mary Favier, President of the ICGP, said “The Irish College of General Practitioners welcomes the widening of the test criteria. We understand and are supportive of the rationale behind the change.”
From today, a patient need only have one of three key symptoms – a fever, cough, or shortness of breath. However, priority for testing will continue to be given to healthcare staff, the medically vulnerable, and close contacts of confirmed cases.
Dr Favier added: “It is a modest widening. However, the HSE must ensure the capacity is there within the system to accommodate and manage the ramping up in the number of tests performed each week. If the capacity is not there then unacceptable waiting times for testing and return of test results builds up and we end up not being able to deliver the amount of testing that is required.
“In addition, contact tracing needs to be timely and appropriately organised in order to deal with the anticipated rise in new cases revealed by increased testing. If a test result is positive, Public Health must ensure they have the resources to quickly trace that person’s contacts to ensure we are then managing the ongoing spread of the disease.
“Without this resource being widely and consistently available, we will see a further inevitable surge in infection rates. Such a surge will place significant additional pressures on general practice and the wider healthcare services.
Dr Favier emphasised that patients should contact their GP for advice if they are feeling unwell.
“Confirming a diagnosis of a Covid-19 by testing does not affect the advice to patients on how to recover. Your GP is the best person to advise you if you are concerned that you have symptoms of Covid-19 infection.
“Please do contact your GP by phone if you are concerned. The GP can decide if you meet the criteria for testing. Anyone with symptoms suggestive of Covid-19 needs to self-isolate for 14 days and their household contacts need to restrict their movements.”
Dr Favier urged people to continue to practice social distancing as the Bank Holiday approaches.
“Your personal actions can save a life. Please adhere to the Government-advised restrictions on movement this coming bank holiday weekend.”