The Department of Health has explained the rationale behind the proposed change to end Covid testing for the general population in the autumn.

It said that Covid-19 will be managed in a similar manner to other infectious diseases, primarily as a clinical decision at GP care level, but underpinned by a robust surveillance system.

The Department said that continuation of the testing programme at the scale seen to date, has very limited public health rationale now, baring a significant deterioration in disease indicators, or the emergence of a variant of concern that has major public health implications.

From the autumn, testing will only occur based on a clinical assessment where a clinician requires the result to contribute to the diagnosis and management of an individual patient, or where deemed necessary by public health in relation to the management of an outbreak or specific public health risk.

The HSE is also developing testing and tracing emergency response plans given the uncertainty about the future of the virus.

Testing will be ramped up if it arises and there is a need to reintroduce mass testing at community level.

Recently, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly warned of the potential perfect storm, of a severe flu season and a Covid surge this winter.

The Department said that since previous changes to public health advice in relation to testing for Covid-19 came into effect on 28 February 2022, the HSE has been developing proposals to transition the testing programme towards a longer-term, sustainable model, in which Covid-19 can be managed for public health and clinical purposes, rather than the mass testing and tracing programme which has been in effect since early in the pandemic.

It said this will ensure adequate monitoring of disease incidence and severity and detection of changes including monitoring circulating strains and detection of new variants.

The proposal to close centres in the autumn follows a recommendation from interim Chief Medical Officer Breda Smyth.

The recommendation was brought to Cabinet today by Minister Donnelly and accepted.