Ireland's Covid-19 testing centers began closing on Thursday, March 30, but the Irish public has been advised to continue to stay at home if they experience symptoms.

The Public Health advice for COVID-19 has been updated and from March 30, COVID-19 testing is no longer recommended for the vast majority of people, the HSE said on March 28.

In line with this new advice, community testing centres across Ireland and the self-referral portal for ordering PCR tests are no longer required, and both were closed as of March 30.

The HSE noted that both PCR and antigen testing will continue to be used by doctors in hospitals and General Practice settings for the purpose of diagnosing and deciding on the provision of treatment for Covid-19 to a patient.

The HSE added that Public Health teams may also decide that Covid-19 testing is required in the management of an outbreak in a high-risk setting where they believe that further transmission is likely and could have serious impact, based on Public Health Risk Assessment.

Dr. John Cuddihy, HSE National Director for Public Health, said: “We are making these changes now based on best available evidence in relation to managing Covid-19, recognising the high level of vaccine-induced and naturally acquired population immunity in Ireland as well as the development of new treatments, all of which are mitigating the worst impacts of Covid-19 infection.

“Testing for COVID-19 will not be necessary for the vast majority of the population.

"For most people, if they have symptoms of COVID-19 or other viral respiratory tract infections, they should stay at home and limit contact with others until 48 hours after their symptoms have substantially or fully resolved – they do not need to do a COVID-19 test.”

Eileen Whelan, HSE Lead for COVID-19 Test and Trace and Vaccination, said that the self-referral portal on the HSE's website will no longer be required and would be closed as of March 30.

Whelan further said that healthcare workers who are household close contacts will no longer be required to do antigen tests and that specific guidance will be issued to Health and Care Workers.

Whelan added: “A reduced contact tracing service will remain and contact tracing will be limited to those who have had a positive test in settings and scenarios (such as hospitals and long term care facilities) where further transmission is likely, and could have serious impact based on Public Health Risk Assessment."

Whelan separately told RTÉ's Morning Ireland on March 28 that the closure of the COVID-19 testing centers "is the recommendation of our public health department. And this change has come about in line with the changes in the virus.

"But also three years on, after the declaration of the pandemic, we now know a lot more about the virus.

"But most importantly, we have good levels of vaccine-acquired immunity across the population in the country and also naturally acquired immunity.

"And in addition to that, we now have new treatments and new therapies that we didn’t have at the outset of the pandemic." 

She added: "We are now moving to a scenario where Covid-19 and people who have symptoms of Covid-19 have been treated similar to other viral illnesses and other respiratory illnesses that people are familiar with for many, many years." 

Whelan denied that Ireland was moving faster than the advice given by the World Health Organisation (WHO), stating that this was a "measured approach."

"Our public health doctors have updated the advice and we have watched what’s happening in other countries internationally," Whelan said. "So this is a very measured approach.

"A lot of consideration has been put into this advice, and we’re now three years into the pandemic and this is the best evidence that’s available."