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Backlog in testing means 2-week result wait as 14 more die of virus

  • Death toll rises to 85, with 3,447 cases

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Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, HSE chief Paul Reid and Health Minister Simon Harris visit the Citywest Hotel conference centre

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, HSE chief Paul Reid and Health Minister Simon Harris visit the Citywest Hotel conference centre

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, HSE chief Paul Reid and Health Minister Simon Harris visit the Citywest Hotel conference centre

The logjam in coronavirus testing is now leaving some patients waiting two weeks to find out if they are positive for the virus.

More women than men are testing positive for the virus for the first time, as 14 more families were yesterday left mourning a loved one who died from infection.

The death toll has now risen to 85 after 10 people died in the east along with another four in the south.

The Department of Health also confirmed that if a person died before their test was processed, they were counted as being positive.

Deputy chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn said a further 212 cases of the virus had been diagnosed, bringing the total to 3,447.

Shortage

An analysis of figures up to Monday night showed 48pc were male, reversing a trend which showed more men were infected.

The number of patients in intensive care has risen again to 126 and most of these are still likely to be receiving treatment.

Dr Glynn said it could be 10 days to two weeks before the delays in testing - due to a worldwide shortage of laboratory kits - are resolved.

Suspected cases who could have been waiting 14 days for a result may have completed their period of self-isolation and recovered before they get their test verdict.

Asked if the delay in testing was giving an underestimate of the daily rise in new cases, Dr Glynn said: "We have been very open that we are not carrying out as many tests as we intended to be carried out at this point.

"If we were carrying out more tests we probably would be picking up more people but that does not mean the picture in hospitalisations and intensive care would be any different," he said.

"Ultimately, from the point of view of tracking the disease and tracking its impact on hospital capacity, those are the figures we are most interested in."

Some 834 patients have been hospitalised with the illness. The next 10 days to two weeks will provide the best picture of where we stand in terms of spread and it is thought to be still too early to draw conclusions.

Dr Cillian De Gascun, of the National Virus Reference Laboratory, said it was carrying out 1,500 tests a day and was planning for 5,000. However, a worldwide shortage of reagents to complete the laboratory analysis of swabs was hampering progress. He said the plan was still to be doing 15,000 tests a day in a couple of weeks time.

"We are working with our existing partners to identify alternative options for the extraction process and we also have more equipment coming on stream in the next seven to 10 days," he said.

Worried

Meanwhile, a survey commissioned by the Department of Health showed strong support for emergency measures during the coronavirus crisis, with 89pc saying they agreed with social distancing and 94pc believing they could comply with the restrictions.

Some 85pc said they had adapted to the measures and would know what to do if they felt they had symptoms.

One in three is worried about their health and three-quarters of those asked are concerned for family and friends.

Two-thirds are now contacting family and friends on their phone or online .

Due to the delay in testing, public health officials will now start contact tracing from the point at which someone suspected of having the virus is referred for a test, not when the result comes through.

It will be another 10 days to two weeks before testing is ramped up to the levels needed.

Dr Colm Henry, of the HSE, said the advice regarding masks was that unless people were in direct contact with an infected patient they may present a hazard.

This is because people adjust them more frequently and that could distract them from the core practice of handwashing.

The advice was constantly evolving, he added.

Meanwhile, the number of virus clusters in nursing homes has risen to 23.

The National Public Health Emergency Team has written to the HSE to implement a series of safeguards, including more screening of staff for potential symptoms of the virus and improved training in areas such as the administration of oxygen.