A total of 12 confirmed cases of Covid-19 have been recorded in Galway to date, according to statistics released by the HSE yesterday evening. The news came as the executive rolled out plans to substantially increase the number of tests and testing centres available nationally.
The country was also preparing this morning to take delivery of 30,000 new testing kits, which will boost the availability of tests nationwide.
Meanwhile the Naval vessel LE William Butler Yeats is set to become a Covid-19 testing centre at Galway Harbour, as part of the roll-out of nine testing centres across the west. It is understood the Naval Service is deploying the vessel as part of a plan to provide three testing centres around the country, at the request of the HSE, with ships also being used in Dublin and Cork.
Anyone with suspected Covid-19 symptoms is advised to immediately self-isolate and contact a GP, who can make an electronic referral using the HealthLink system which came into operation last week.
Nationally, work is under way this week to increase the number of community testing clinics from 19 to 34. The number of hospitals offering testing will be increased from five to 10. Further locations and additional lab capacity are also likely to come on stream as the demand for testing increases.
"Staff in community healthcare services have been working closely with the National Ambulance Service to expand the number of locations in which to provide for testing in the community," the HSE said in a statement issued last evening. "Approximately 200 staff from across community healthcare organisations have been trained to date on the procedures for testing in the community.
"A proportion of these trained staff were deployed to work with colleagues in the National Ambulance Service on Saturday March 14 to provide increased community testing levels in sites around the country. The HSE is training additional staff from Monday March 16 to increase the capacity of staff to provide community testing. This cohort includes student nurses in Dublin City University."
The HSE is also in the process of rolling out an integrated appointment system, which will provide confirmation and information on appointments to those referred for testing. In the meantime, community healthcare staff are contacting people by phone to arrange appointments.
"The HSE is continuously developing its systems to manage all GP requests via a central portal, HealthLink," the statement continued. "This portal will allow for direct access for GPs to refer patients for testing and also allow the demand to be managed in a safe manner. At present the HSE is experiencing unprecedented demand on the system and are working to ensure the system is in a position to manage this and projected demand going forward.
"The HSE and the Department of Health are not providing information about individual activations of preparedness plans or about individual cases of Covid-19 (coronavirus ) other than confirmed cases. The approach which has been taken to date in Ireland is in line with guidance from the WHO and ECDC."
People with symptoms are being asked to self-isolate, including from members of their household, and contact their GP to arrange a test. The main symptoms to watch out for include a cough, shortness of breath, breathing difficulties, and fever or chills. The cough associated with Covid-19 is usually dry, though there have been cases of patients with the virus coughing up phlegm. Other symptoms which may occur include headaches, a sore throat, fatigue, and aches and pains.