The HSE confirmed Sunday that there is no longer a COVID-19 testing backlog in the Republic of Ireland.
HSE Chief Executive Paul Reid said that Ireland had "zero backlog" in his weekly press briefing.
Ireland had previously amassed a backlog of more than 35,000 tests at the beginning of April but dramatically reduced the backlog thanks to a laboratory in Germany.
The backlog was causing Ireland's daily coronavirus tallies to rise significantly as positive cases from the end of March were only confirmed in mid-April.
“We have eliminated any backlog for lab testing and we have significantly built up our capacity,” Reid said.
Reid said that there are now 26 laboratories in Ireland testing for the virus and one in Germany. The 27 laboratories are capable of testing 1,000 samples every day and the Irish laboratories are testing approximately 60% of these.
Additionally, there are now 48 testing centers throughout the country capable of testing 7,000 people. Last week, the centers collected 11,000 swab samples from people with coronavirus symptoms.
Reid said that the focus will now be on testing people in residential care facilities like nursing homes. He said that more than 4,000 staff and residents in homes around the country were tested this weekend.
In total, around 28,000 staff and 30,000 residents in homes across the country will need to be tested.
COVID-19 has been diagnosed in roughly 40% of Irish nursing homes, Reid confirmed.
HSE Chief Clinical Officer Dr. Colm Henry said that Ireland was "not unique" in the number of outbreaks it has seen in nursing homes. He said that this is common in every country in the world and said that the best way to combat COVID-19 in nursing homes was through aggressive testing and early identification.
Reid said that the HSE is currently trying to equip nursing homes with sufficient PPE and said that three-quarters of a million equipment items were sent to homes around the country on Friday alone.
He said that sourcing PPE was still proving to be a challenge for the HSE and said that some items "were like gold dust."
He claimed that the Irish government had successfully ordered PPE on a number of occasions only for another nation to come in and try and outbid their order. The HSE boss likened it to "modern-day piracy."
"In terms of when we secure an order someone else is coming in and trying to outbid the order that we have secured."
Reid said that PPE from the first batch of equipment sent from China had been fully distributed in Ireland. He said that more than 33 million items worth more than €31 million ($33.7 million) had been distributed to healthcare facilities around the country.
Around 20% of the first batch from China was not suitable to use in Irish hospitals, but Reid said that those issues have now been fully addressed.
The second batch of PPE from China commenced on Saturday and will total more than €130 million ($141 million).
The batch is four times the size of the first batch and includes 11 million gowns and overalls, seven and a half million gloves, six million respirator masks and ten million surgical masks.
HSE CEO Paul Reid said that any product issues that were there in the batch one delivery of PPE have been addressed ahead of the second delivery of PPE pic.twitter.com/SSLCkVUIqf— RTÉ News (@rtenews) April 19, 2020
However, Reid called on healthcare workers to continue to be prudent in how they use PPE over the coming weeks.