PATIENTS IN Ireland will now have to be displaying two major symptoms of Covid-19 in order to qualify for one of the much sought-after tests for the virus.
These major symptoms include a cough, fever or shortness of breath.
Anyone who has been in contact with a confirmed case, or is either working in the healthcare sector or categorised as vulnerable will also take priority.
Speaking at a briefing held by the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) in Dublin chief medical officer Tony Holohan explained how it was crucial some cases are prioritised..
"With the significant increase in testing that we've had, still only 6% of those are confirmed cases,” he said.
"That has been a challenge - to continue to reach all the people who would seek a test, and to get those tests to people in the timeframes that they would like."
He also confirmed that the official definition for the disease, in an Irish context, has been changed.
Under the changes, the symptoms of Covid-19 have now been identified specifically as a fever together with at least one indication of a respiratory issue, whether it be a cough or general shortness of breath.
According to Dr Holohan, the new wording, which has been adopted from the World Health Organization's own definition, has been introduced to curb the number of people across Ireland presenting for a test despite most likely not having the virus.
It comes after the number of people requesting testing for Covid-19 in Ireland hit a peak of 20,000.
“If we were to test that amount we would become by a considerable distance the number one country in the world for testing,” Dr Holohan said.
“What that says to us is that a lot of people coming forward are people who are not appropriate for testing, and we need to think about focusing our case definition to identify people with high probability of having this particular infection.”
As of Tuesday, March 24, there had been 204 new cases of coronavirus in Ireland - bringing the total number to 1,329.
There have been seven COVID-19 related deaths so far in Ireland.