Sinn Féin Dublin South West TD Seán Crowe has called on HSE to outline how the health service will hit its 72-hour COVID-19 testing and tracing targets.

Teachta Crowe said that the need to reach these targets on a consistent basis is supposedly a key component of the state’s plan to ease COVID-19 restrictions, but he was receiving reports from constituents that the current system is clearing failing them badly.

Deputy Seán Crowe said:

“We know that the HSE has encountered difficulties in hitting the necessary COVID-19 targets for testing and tracing. We have seen a shortage of testing agent, lab analysis, essential PPE for frontline staff, and bureaucratic delays and shortcomings having been cited.

“Experts are clear that the entire testing process must be completed within 48 to 72 hours in order to cut the spread of the virus across the population.

“I think everyone would agree that mistakes have been made; priorities haven’t been met and the current timelines are too slow and are not where they need to be.

“Only this week, I was contacted by one constituent who has pulmonary difficulties, is on oxygen and has other serious underlying medical issues who told me he was waiting 26 days for his COVID-19 results, which he only received after having to make various phone inquiries. The test was thankfully negative, but no one should have to wait that amount of time for a COVID-19 result.

“He was also supposedly identified as someone who was on a ‘welfare watch’, but there was no contact or support from anyone during that period or since which is extremely worryingly.

“We know that some of the difficulties and delays have arisen due to a legacy of government under-funding and under-investment in electronic systems for the health service.

“The HSE have announced that they are now going to introduce a new three-day test and tracing target in the belief that they have now managed to get ahead of some of the difficulties that had been causing delays like a shortage the testing agent and testing analysis.

“Again, I have had constituents a family of six who were tested positive asking why their test couldn’t have been done locally at Tallaght Stadium but rather requiring them to make six individual journeys into the City centre on public transport for their tests. That particular family say there has been no follow up from authorities regarding who they have been in contact with and who they had met.

“We are told it is vitally important that the 72-hour target is met and sustained once the restrictions are lifted. Failure to do so could see new transmissions across our communities and undo much of the hard work done to contain the virus.

“I am therefore calling on the HSE to outline how they will hit the 72-hour testing and tracing end-to-end targets. The public must have confidence that basic standards can be reached and maintained in the coming weeks if we are ever to move from lockdown to a greater sense of normality.”