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09 Dec 2021

Donegal GP urges people with respiratory illness to take a PCR test

Doctor calls for changes to ‘cumbersome’ testing regime to encourage more testing

covid-19 antigen

Covid-19 testing

A Donegal GP is urging people to get a Covid-19 PCR test if they display symptoms of respiratory illness.

Dr Ciarán Ó Fearraigh said it is clear that people are not being tested enough and not isolating enough. He is urging those with symptoms to stay at home and get a PCR test.

His comments come after 3,174 new cases of Covid-19 were confirmed in the State on Wednesday

In Donegal, the latest figures show 1,078 people have tested positive for Covid-19 in the latest two-week period and the five-day daily average of cases is 84.

Letterkenny University Hospital was treating 18 Covid-19 patients on Wednesday night, down from 21 on Tuesday. Four Covid-19 cases are being treated in ICU.The GP at the Millbrae surgery in Stranorlar said quicker PCR results are needed and employers and the Government need to ensure employees are supported to take time off if they have respiratory symptoms. The 12% positivity rate in testing nationally shows something has to be done to get the figures down, he said.

Dr Ó Ciarán Fearraigh said rapid antigen testing misses one in three infections in symptomatic cases and cannot be relied on

The large amount of repository illness in circulation, such as adenoviruses and common colds, is hiding the spread of Covid-19, he told Donegallive.

“If you have got respiratory symptoms don’t carry on as normal - get a test, stay at home until you know it is not Covid. The wide spread of respiratory infections isn’t helping with the spread of Covid because it is changing people’s perception [to believe] that everything that is out there isn’t Covid,” he said.

His surgery is not seeing many cases of Covid-19 present, with most that do among the unvaccinated.

“For most of those that aren’t unwell with it we are not hearing about it so we don’t have a good handle on it. I’m not having contact with as many people as I would expect with those kinds of numbers in the county. Most people are having mild illness that does not warrant medical intervention and those that we are seeing and those that I have had contact with over the last three days are predominantly those who have been unvaccinated.”

Dr Ó Fearraigh said rapid antigen testing misses one in three infections in symptomatic cases and cannot be relied on.

He said it is about striking a balance between “it is better than doing an antigen test than to do nothing”, but “in reality, if you have respiratory symptoms you should be getting a PCR test”.

“That is still cumbersome and involves most people having to take one or two days out of their lives and maybe getting children home from school for a few days and getting that done and waiting for a result. Making that as easy as possible for people is the way we will encourage people to do it.”

 READ MORE: 'Cut your contacts' - Stark warning from Tony Holohan as Covid-19 cases soar 

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