In a short time we have scaled up on, testing centres, testing kits, contact tracers, nbr of Labs, hospital beds, ICU, ventilators, PPE, staff.
Our current major issue is “reagents” for labs. A worldwide shortage. We are working hard to fix this. Bear with us @HSELive #COVID19
— Paul Reid (@paulreiddublin) April 1, 2020
CEO of the HSE Paul Reid; text tweeted by Mr Reid last night
RTÉ broadcaster Audrey Carville told Morning Ireland listeners that due to a global shortage of material used in laboratories to carry out coronavirus tests, called reagent, just 1,500 tests are being processed a day in Ireland – leading to a significant delay in test results.
Despite this, the deputy chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn last night said the Irish health authorities are still aiming to carry out between 10,000 and 15,000 tests within the next two weeks.
Also last night the CEO of the HSE Paul Reid tweeted a plea for the public to bear with the HSE as it sought to “fix this”.
His tweet followed the HSE apologising to those waiting for test results. This apology came after a nursing home resident who was tested for Covid-19 on March 23 died on Tuesday night. Their test result had not come through by the time of their death.
Further this this, Mr Reid spoke to Seán O’Rourke on RTÉ this morning that the HSE was chasing around the world for reagent.
From their discussion…
Seán O’Rourke: “It would appear, Paul though that perhaps the answer to that particular problem with the reagent is under our noses in the Irish pharma companies. According to the Irish Times, and we’ll be talking to one of their representatives in a little while, that can actually be done here in Ireland?”
Paul Reid: “Yeah, well, when I did, which is being quoted, the message I sent out last night, which was asking the public to bear with us because there will be a few strands to the solution for this which we were working throughout the night on and it’s a combination of, firstly, we have secured, literally overnight, the capacity to transfer some of the queue that we have for testing to a very, reputable international organisation based in Europe.
“And that will start to address the queue that we already have. That’s the first solution that we have.”
Reid: “The industry is telling us the increase that they have seen and the [global] demand for these reagents has gone up by over 1,000% in the last few days.”
O’Rourke: “Yeah but did we not have first move or advantage? We woke up to this thing at least we were told we were ahead of the game, ahead of those other countries, certainly the United States?”
Reid: “We were and we have been and we continue to be in terms of our testing volumes that we’re doing and we want to stay there and it is a very difficult one for us and we are working on those, three solutions, three very different solutions – getting some of it tested abroad, some supply of kit from China that will take a week to ten days to come through, with some risk associated with it, and equally, in negotiations, right throughout today, right throughout all yesterday, calls later with Irish pharma companies, to see the capacity of their supply to significantly ramp up and help us with this really national crisis.”
O’Rourke: “What’s your best guess or best estimate, this is about more than guessing obviously, for where we will be at in the numbers being tested and with those tests analysed say a week from today?”
Reid: “Well exactly where the minister said, is where we all want to get to. We want to get to those testings of about…between 10,000 and 15,000 per day. It’s not going to happen overnight so I want to be very clear with the public. We’re at currently completed tests in the labs about 2,600 per day so we’re not going to get to that number over a week or ten days. But with the three interventions that I’ve just described that we’ve put in place, we will significantly ramp up but it will take us longer.
“We had always said it would take us longer to get 15,000 per day so that will take time. But over the next ten days we’re working around the clock to really break this issue.”
Listen back in full here
Also on Morning Ireland this morning, Professor Paul Moynagh, head of the Kathleen Lonsdale institute for human health at NUI Maynooth, also told Ms Carville that serological testing – a test for antibodies for coronavirus which would indicate a person has previously had the virus – is going to be a “really important tool” that will go “hand in hand” with the other tests being carried out.
He said such antibody testing would be initially very useful for healthcare workers, as it may lead them to securing protection from the virus and allow them to return to work.
Asked if such testing is already being carried out, he said: “That is just being evaluated. My understanding is that it is being evaluated at the moment. A number of other countries are evaluating it. The UK, I know, is evaluating this.”
He added that they would have to be “robustly tested” and said “certainly, it’s going to be a really important arm in terms of the testing regime in the country”.
A health expert on @MorningIreland suggests it's time to go to "digital contact tracing".@AudreyCarville doesn't ask for any explanation, "thanks very much"
Does "digital contact tracing" involve mandatory carrying of smartphones with location tracking?
— nwl (@nwl88444048) April 2, 2020
Iceland has tested 17,900 people, 5% of its 360,000 population
Ireland has carried out 30,213 tests. At average 3 tests/individual, that’s 10,000 of our 5m population, 0.2%
Yet @RTENews and Leo says we’re world leading.#vireas19 pic.twitter.com/rY0bjIQbTg
— nwl (@nwl88444048) April 2, 2020
Listen back to Morning Ireland interview in full here.