The recent escalation in Covid-19 case numbers within Athlone and its environs is just cause for the reopening of a test centre in the town, the thoughts of Town Mayor, Cllr. Aengus O’Rourke, who spoke with the Athlone Advertiser this week with regard to the issue.
The Town Mayor was speaking following the release of the latest tranche of Covid-19 confirmed cases which detail a worrying increase in cases in Athlone in the 14 day period from September 22 to October 5, during which time 34 individuals tested positive for the virus in the Athlone electoral area (Westmeath ).
As of October 12, new cases during the previous 14 day period detail 141 confirmed Covid-19 cases within County Westmeath accounting for an incidence rate per 100,000 population of 158.8, a figure just below the national 14 day incidence rate average of 177.2
“I could not quite believe it when it was confirmed to me recently that there is no designated Covid-19 testing service in Athlone. I say service and not ‘facility’ because you don’t need a special kind of ‘facility’ in any way, testing is very simple, unpleasant perhaps, but very simple.
“A test can happen anywhere once there is a medical person available with a testing kit. So as it stands, if you live in Cornamaddy you are told to go to Mullingar which is 63 km away. If you live in Baylough, you are told to go to Castlerea, 61km away.
“Apart from the inconvenience of this, the fact of the matter is that by taking these journeys people are technically in breach of public health advice, on a number of levels.
“Firstly, we are told to restrict our movements and we are not supposed to travel outside our county - Castlerea is in County Roscommon. If you don’t drive, you are not to avail of public transport. By asking an individual to drive you, you are putting them at risk for 50 minutes in a car with you.
“We have plenty of empty community run buildings at the moment across the town. People can be trained to give the test. Members of the Order of Malta and Civil Defence, together with Army Medics or other such groups could be approached to carryout testing if the HSE does not have the resources in Athlone to carry out the testing.
“Covid-19 is now local, it is in our town, we need to control it and the one sure way of dealing with it is by efficient and reliable testing and tracing. I have raised this matter nationally at Government level and would hope that the situation is addressed soon,” the Town Mayor asserted.