No GP appointment will be needed, or fee will apply, for anyone using the new walk-in Covid-19 test centres that are being created to target areas where positive cases are particularly high.
The aim of the initiative is to help understand why disease is spreading, and in particular, help uncover cases without symptoms.
It is understood that, in cooperation with the National Ambulance Service, the aim is to carry out between 300 and 500 Covid-19 tests per day at each walk-in centre.
The public can use the free testing service if they are aged over 16, do not have Covid-19 symptoms, but would like to be tested, may not have their own GP, and live within 5km of the test centre.
Those looking for a test must bring photo ID with them and provide a mobile phone number so they be contacted with their test results.
The testing centres will be open from Thursday 25 March to Wednesday 31 March from 11am to 7pm.
Five new walk-in temporary Covid-19 testing centres are being established in areas where the number of positive cases are high, says Liz Canavan. The centres are part of the HSE's enhanced Covid testing for local communities | https://t.co/RyzZMgTPKg pic.twitter.com/sfKBPM6V3r— RTÉ News (@rtenews) March 24, 2021
Social distancing will apply as people turn up for testing.
The centre is not for use of those with suspected Covid-19 symptoms, who are being told to self-isolate and contact their GP.
Walk-in test centre locations will be open at the following locations, according to the Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly:
Aura Leisure Centre, Tullamore
National Aquatic Centre Car Park, Blanchardstown
HSE Phoenix Care Centre Car Park, Grangegorman
These temporary walk-in testing centres that are being set up by @HSELive and @AmbulanceNAS are for people, who don't have symptoms of Covid-19, to get a free Covid-19 test without having to contact their GP first. Social distancing measures will apply.— Stephen Donnelly (@DonnellyStephen) March 24, 2021
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The HSE's National Lead for Covid-19 testing and tracing, Niamh O'Beirne, has urged people who live within 5km of the new centres to avail of free tests.
Speaking on RTÉ's Drivetime, Ms O'Beirne said the establishment of these centres is "another tool in the toolkit" to stop the spread of Covid-19, and to find asymptomatic cases.
She said the testing centres are aimed at detecting the disease in areas where positive cases are particularly high.
"We're asking for the public who may wish to get tested if you're over the age of 16, they haven't tested positive in the last six months, and you live within five kilometers of test centre to come forward for testing."
Dr Ray Walley, a member of the HSE GP Liason Committee, described the provision of the centres as "ambitious" and "innovative".
Speaking on the same programme, he said we do not know the degree of asymptomatic prevalence of the virus in our community, and these centres are in blackspots and areas with high positivity.
Some of the areas have in excess of 10% positivity, Dr Walley said.
He said a similar move has been carried out in Denmark, which he described as one of the leaders in testing and tracing.
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A Dublin-based GP has said that there is now a slow but steady increase in Covid-19 cases being identified in the past week, with his practice seeing a doubling in referrals for testing on Monday compared to the previous Monday.
Speaking on RTÉ's News at One, Dr Knut Moe said that the overall picture is at a standstill, and GPs are not seeing decreased levels of Covid-19 that are sufficient to make them comfortable.
He said testing referrals have increased over the last number of weeks back to "slightly more concerning" levels, adding that this was reflected in the GP community data tracker.
However, he said it was more important to "test, test, test" than to ignore symptoms.
Dr Moe said that people who have been vaccinated are looking to carry out more activities, and are being advised to be optimistic but to be cautious and to continue to follow the public health guidelines.