The Health Service Executive (HSE) has responded to the reported lack of PCR appointments in 18 counties, including Kildare, which occurred earlier this week.
The HSE's self-referral portal showed zero availability in counties including, Carlow, Dublin, Meath, and Wicklow, last Wednesday.
A spokesperson for the HSE explained in a statement: "We have seen a sustained extremely high demand for COVID-19 testing at our community testing centres in the last number of weeks in particular."
"This reflects the high prevalence of the disease and other illnesses at this time."
The spokesperson continued: "The community testing service was established initially to support the delivery of 15,000 tests per day – the service has a number of additional measures which we have implemented to increase that daily testing figure for peak periods to 20,000 tests per day.
"Over the last number of weeks we have consistently carried out more than 20,000 tests per day, and Tuesday, November 23 was our busiest day to date in community testing with over 27,000 appointments offered in test centres.
"In recent days it has been particularly busy in test centres across the country, however, we monitor test appointment slots continually throughout the day and slots often do become available later in the day or the following day.
"We have been working on plans to further increase the volume of COVID-19 testing we can provide to communities.
"We have agreement in place with a private testing provider – RocDoc to operate a testing centre on the HSE’s behalf, located at Dublin airport: this opened on Monday, 15th November and initially provided 500 appointments daily, which has quickly increased to 1200 appointments every day."
The spokesperson added that the HSE opened a further test centre operated on our behalf by RocDoc at Cork airport on Monday, November 22 with a test centre opened at Shannon airport on Tuesday, November 23: "We expect 700 tests will be available at each of these test centres by the end of this week."
"In addition to the additional capacity agreed with RocDoc, we are continuing to recruit additional staff to our Community Test Centres. We are also working to put further additional external resources in place to increase our testing capacity including potentially other private service providers."
They also pointed to a press briefing from yesterday in which, Damien McCallion, the HSE's National Lead of its Vaccination Programme said: "If you think back over a year ago, 100,000 tests was seen as the bar, as the standard..... We've doubled that effectively."
"The surge capacity has now become our norm, so 20,000 is our base and we've grown it through some actions over the last couple of weeks even further, so, we've opened up centres in Dublin, Cork and Shannon in the last seven days."
He continued: "Cork and Shannon opened this week. Again, giving additional capacity that would grow up to about 3,000 tests over the coming days in those centres alone.
"In addition to that, we’re working with a number of other partners to open up three more centres over the next week around the country and we've also increased what we call our mobile teams who are able to go into areas where there may be pressures occurring at a point in time; and those again will be coming on stream over the next seven or eight days also."
Mr McCallion added that the Permanent Defence Forces again have "come to the fore" and are working with the HSE on both its contact tracing and its testing.
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