Pop-up coronavirus testing centres have made a “really important contribution” to the fall in coronavirus cases, according to a Limerick immunologist.
Since late March, the HSE has been operating ‘walk-in, no appointment necessary’ testing centres in parts of the country that have particularly high case numbers.
The centres are open to all adults that live within 5km of the centre and have not tested positive for the virus in the past six months.
Last night, 303 new cases of the virus were reported – the lowest daily figure since mid-December.
When the walk-in centres were opened cases were opened on March 24th, 680 cases were reported and cases remained around the 600 mark for most of that week.
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, Dr Elizabeth Ryan, Lecturer in Immunology at the University of Limerick said the centres have had an impact.
“It is the vaccines but it is also testing and really trying to root out those asymptomatic cases,” she said.
“So, having these pop-up test centres where people who don’t have symptoms are tested, that is a really important contribution as well because that is another way you can break those chains of transmission of the disease.
“The way it spreads is not by people who are symptomatic because when you have symptoms, you go and get tested and you isolate hopefully, but it is by the fact that so many people can have the virus and not realise so increasing testing within asymptomatic people is also helping.”
She said the ongoing restrictions have also helped to keep the virus at bay.
“The restrictions really play a huge role in this and one way you can see that is that this winter there has been very little flu,” she said.
“Flu usually spreads in a similar way to COVID and, because of the restrictions, we have supressed flu so COVID is just a bit more contagious and bit harder to suppress.
“So, it is both and now one million doses of vaccine have been given to the population which is a huge number. I know there are difficulties with the rollout and everything but if you take a step back and think about that, that is a vaccine that didn’t exist just a short time ago.”
This morning, the public health restrictions were eased after more than 100 days of lockdown, with people now free to travel anywhere within their own county or 20km from home if they are crossing county boundaries.
Meanwhile, up to two households can now meet up outdoors, although people are asked not to meet up in each other’s gardens.
Schools will this morning be full for the first time this year while residential construction is also returning.
There are currently three ‘walk-in’ centres operating in Dublin, with one in Limerick and one in Waterford.
They are located at:
- Crumlin GAA, Club House, Lorcan O’ Toole Park, Park Crescent, Crumlin
- Mulhuddart, Cumann Naomh Peregrine, Blakestown Road, Dublin
- St Joseph’s Health Campus, 3 Mulgrave Street, Limerick
- Waterford IT College Street Campus, Cork Road, Waterford
- Ballyfermot Sports Complex, 33 to 39 Gurteen Road, Redcowfarm, Dublin
You can listen back to Dr Ryan here: