Independent TD Peter Fitzpatrick has raised the issue of the location of a Covid test centre in Ardee in the Dáil. According to Deputy Fitzpatrick there has been a sharp spike of cases in Ardee since the test centre opened in the town in October.
“I raise the issue of the location of the Covid-19 test centres around the country, in particular the test centre in Ardee, County Louth. The Covid test centre in Ardee was opened in October of this year. It has the capacity to carry out 3,500 Covid tests per week. It operates with a six-lane capacity and can operate on a seven days a week basis when needed. I visited the site shortly before it opened and I must say it is a fabulous facility and very well staffed.
“At the time, as the Taoiseach knows, I raised concerns about the location of the test centre. I was concerned at the time that it was unwise to bring a testing centre to the Ardee area and I felt that we could be bringing the virus into the area. At the time, Ardee had one of the lowest rates of Covid in the country and, very often, it was recording cases of fewer than five per 100,000.
“Unfortunately, Ardee now has one of the highest rates of incidence in the country, with the latest figures showing a rate of 205 cases per 100,000 when the national average is 80 cases per 100,000. I am not saying that the huge surge in cases is a direct result of the testing centre, but it is something that needs further investigation. We need to look at other testing centres around the country to see if any trend has emerged, like a sharp spike in Covid cases in those areas.
“Unfortunately, my fear has been proved right on this occasion. It is important now that we find out exactly why there has been such a spike in cases in Ardee and, indeed, other cases around the country where test centres have been located. I know from speaking to many locals in the Ardee area that they feel that people visiting the test centre are also visiting the local shopping centre, which could be a cause of the spike in cases. It is also being said that people are arriving at the test centre early and are being asked to return later. In the meantime, they are visiting the local shops, which again could explain the huge rise in cases.
It is not about blaming anybody. It is about finding the causes of the huge spikes and dealing with that. Will the Taoiseach confirm if it is the case that the location of test centres is indeed contributing to sharp increases in Covid cases in the immediate vicinity? Is Ardee an isolated case or is this a common occurrence in areas with test centres?,” asked Deputy Fitzpatrick.
In response to Deputy Fitzpatrick’s question An Taoiseach Michael Martin pledged to raise the issue with the Chief Medical Officer as well as HSE officials.
“As yet, there has been no indication of a correlation between the location of testing centres and a higher incidence of Covid-19. I will ask the Chief Medical Officer to consider this and I will check with the HSE about facilities for visitors at the site itself. People generally tend to arrive and leave again, but I will ask the HSE to take the Deputy’s concerns about protocols on board.
“I have no doubt that the issues raised by the Deputy have been articulated to him by local residents. This is therefore a concern in the area. I will talk to the Chief Medical Officer and the HSE and ask for a response to the Deputy on those issues,” stated An Taoiseach.