Children make up over a third of tests as HSE struggles to meet demand
More than a third of people presenting for tests at Covid-19 centers are children, according to new data.
The HSE is currently working to increase testing capacity across the country in an effort to ease the huge appointment request.
After the government announced restrictions for the hospitality industry and households on Friday, data shows children and young adolescents make up the largest cohort tested for Covid-19.
Between November 26 and December 2, 37% of people who attended HSE testing centers were 14 and under. The second largest group are those aged 35 to 44, who accounted for 18% of the participants.
People aged 15 to 24 accounted for 11%, while 12% were aged 25 to 34. Only 5% were 65 years of age or older.
Thousands of people have requested PCR testing slots over the past two weeks, with an average of 200,000 tests performed each week.
Despite the demand, an HSE spokesperson told the Independent Irish there has been an average non-attendance rate of 10 pc in the test centers over the past few days.
“We remind people who cannot make their testing appointment to cancel it in advance so that we can provide someone else with that testing appointment,” the spokesperson said. .
Data from the HSE also shows that people mostly make their own appointments rather than going through their GP.
Between Monday and Friday, 65% of test appointments were self-referrals, 24% were from doctors, and 11% were close contacts.
New pop-up testing centers opened in Dublin, Athlone, Carlow, Kildare, Louth, Meath, Cork and Mayo last week. The Dublin Airport test center continues to be the busiest in the country.
As of Friday, 1,236 tests were carried out there, 1,177 at Citywest and 1,159 at Galway Airport.
The Cork, Limerick and Tullamore centers also saw huge demand.
Meanwhile, people who attempt to book appointments stay awake until midnight in an attempt to secure a time slot, as that is when uptime appears to be highest.
On Saturday afternoon, no appointments were available in Carlow, Kildare, Kilkenny, Laois or Leitrim, nor in five of the nine centers in Dublin.
However, availability appears to have improved as there were hundreds of slots in centers in Donegal, Clare, Cavan, Galway, Limerick and Cork.
The HSE said all centers are currently operating at “maximum capacity”.
An issue on the HSE’s online Covid-19 testing portal on Thursday prevented people from booking PCR tests.
When people tried to confirm an appointment online, they received an error code preventing them from doing so.
Some people were able to sign up for appointments but never received the SMS code needed to confirm their attendance.
Others received the code a few hours later when the appointment page expired.
Meanwhile, some people who have tried to make an appointment in Dublin have claimed that they have the option of reserving a slot at Swords National Show Center on the website.
However, this is a vaccination center and not a testing center.
A spokesperson for the HSE said “no test appointments have been made for the Show Center.”
5,156 other new cases of Covid-19 were confirmed yesterday.
At 8 a.m. yesterday, 503 patients with Covid-19 were being treated in hospital, including 110 in intensive care units.
Meanwhile, booster vaccines for those over 50 are imminent, according to Damien McCallion, national HSE director of the Covid vaccination program.
Speaking on RTÉ This week program, he also said there was uncertainty regarding the new Omicron variant and “the impact it might have”.
While the “signs are encouraging,” there could be no premature measurement of the situation, he warned.
The HSE is on the verge of crossing the milestone of one million recalls administered.
Mr McCallion said most health workers had received their third vaccine. Two-thirds of those over 70 have received their reminder and all should have received it within a few weeks.
A booster is also offered to those aged 60 and over and those aged 16 to 59 who have an underlying medical condition.
Mr McCallion said: “We know people are busy with Christmas, we try to encourage people to make appointments and if that is not possible look at walk-in and drugstores.”