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Tests surge as schools reopen

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TESTING TIMES Staff at the McHale Park Covid-19 testing centre in Castlebar had a particularly busy week last week at the makeshift facility. Pic: Michael McLaughlin

Over 1,100 tests take place in Castlebar

Edwin McGreal

The Covid-19 testing centre at MacHale Park in Castlebar experienced its busiest ever week last week, with 1,189 tests taking place from Monday, September 7, to Sunday, September 13.
Over half of those tested were under 18, with a return to schools cited by the HSE as the greatest factor in the surge. Numbers have more than trebled in the last four weeks.
By way of comparison, the previous week, commencing August 30, saw 476 tests, while the two weeks before that saw 419 and 380 cases, respectively. No week had seen numbers come close to 1,000 before last week.
Testing at meat plants and Direct Provision centres in the region is commencing this week. The two Direct Provision centres are in Ballyhaunis and Ballaghaderreen.
As of last night (Monday), Mayo has 602 confirmed cases of Covid-19, of which 14 have come in the month of September.  
By way of comparison, there were only a total of 16 confirmed cases in the county across the entire months of July and August. Eight of the 14 cases this month have come in the past four days, two each day.
A very small percentage of those who are being tested are testing positive for the virus.
“The numbers at national level show that less than 2 percent of adults tested are testing positive and that figure is less than 1 percent for children. These figures are applying locally as well, from what we’ve seen,” said a HSE spokesperson.
They added said testing was ‘generally’ available on the same day as someone was referred by their GP and, if not, ‘almost always’ within 24 hours of being referred, if the referral was, for instance, made in the afternoon.
“Generally if someone is referred in the morning, they tend to be tested that afternoon and if someone is referred in the evening, they are tested the next morning,” said the spokesperson.
The turnaround time for a result is ‘two to three days’, the spokesperson added.
MacHale Park is one of three test centres in the HSE West (Galway, Mayo and Roscommon) region, with the other two being at Galway Airport and Castlerea Fire Station. People choose whichever testing centre is most convenient to them so people in Mayo might not be tested in Castlebar.
The drive-through facility at MacHale Park has four bays. The centre at Galway Airport is going up to a seven-bay facility this week, from five bays, while there are three bays in Castlerea.
The facilities are open seven days a week. The spokesperson said the facility at MacHale Park has shown a drop in demand yesterday (Monday) and at the weekend compared to during last week.