One in four people are not showing up for their Covid-19 appointment, prompting health chiefs to warn about the risk of spreading the virus.
Figures show that around 25% of people who have been given appointments for a Covid-19 test are failing to appear.
HSE officials have issued pleas to the public to ensure they attend appointments as it is becoming an “issue” at swabbing sites across the country.
HSE chief operations officer Anne O’Connor said: “On a daily basis you can have 3,000 or 4,000 appointments, so if a quarter of those aren’t turning up that is a significant number of appointments.
“It’s challenging as we have to have (testing) capacity for schools.
“As these appointments are automatically scheduled we are finding there are sites where people are not availing and that means it’s an appointment someone else could have used.
“We want to put out a plea to people to please attend.”
Paul Reid, head of the HSE, said however there has been a significant increase in the number of close contacts attending their “day zero” test but the number drops from 80% attendance to around 50% for the “seven-day” test.
Mr Reid said that around 8% of close contacts test positive.
“While we have low positivity rate of 1.5% in overall tests, 8% of contacts test positive and if you are symptomatic it’s closer to 20%,” he added.
Dr Sarah Doyle, specialist in public health medicine, said that one in five of close contacts who are symptomatic will be positive for Covid-19.
“We would really urge people who are close contacts to make sure they turn up for the appointment,” she added.
Ms O’Connor added: “It’s not an option to pursue people but we would ask people to work with us and while we can’t police the population we can encourage them to attend.”
Mr Reid said the turnaround time for a test is now 2.2 days over the last week.
He also urged the public to ensure they provide the correct contact details for their close contacts.
Mr Reid said that serial testing in direct provision centres is expected to start next week with around 7,500 residents and some 500 staff to be tested.
It is expected to take around two weeks to complete the testing.
Mr Reid also said that their “key concern” is also other health services outside of Covid-19.
“We are very conscious that our hospitals are beginning to see people coming through in relation to, it might be issues in terms of the lockdown, whether it’s mental health issues or anxiety issues across younger people and older people, or indeed other services,” he added.
“We equally need to have a focus on the wider health services.”
Ms O’Connor also said that there has been a “significant increase” in people requiring key mental health services.
“We would see that increasing more as children return to school,” she added.
New cases off Covid-19 has been trending upwards over the past four weeks, Mr Reid added.
Figures show that the average number of new cases over the past seven days is 120 per day, up from 104 from the previous week.
“The number of ICU patients remains stable at six confirmed cases in our hospitals, and the number of confirmed cases in our hospitals overall has been trending upwards over the past four weeks, it’s still reasonably stable at a total of 39,” Mr Reid added.