The Irish Republic is doubling its capacity for coronavirus testing this week to around 4,500 tests a day, and top medics have called for the stay-at-home rule to extend beyond Easter.
A network of laboratories and 50 community test centers have been set up across the country.
The Health Service Executive (HSE) said it has managed, despite a global shortage, to secure a vital supply of reagent, a crucial component in the testing process.
The current testing capacity is 2,000 to 2,500 a day. Due to shortages in laboratory materials and kits, this throughput fell to 1,500 tests a day last week.
With the number of cases and deaths continuing to mount, and a surge of COVID-19 expected in the next few days, the latest available all Ireland figure Tuesday morning is 244 deaths and 6,522 cases.
There were 174 deaths in the Republic and 5,364 people have tested positive for the virus.
In Northern Ireland, the latest death tally stands at 70 and there have been 1,158 confirmed cases.
Meanwhile, the HSE admitted that around 20 percent of a consignment of PPE delivered from China 10 days ago at the start of a massive €208 million airlift does not meet requirements and cannot be distributed to staff dealing with patients infected with COVID-19.
A statement, in a briefing from the HSE on Sunday, followed a revelation that an audit of personal protective equipment purchased from China found serious problems with a significant proportion of the initial consignment.
The audit found that four of the 10 items assessed, which included coveralls, goggles, visors, masks, and respirators, were described as “unsuitable” or “not suitable for use” in clinical or other healthcare settings, the key purpose they were required for.
The audit stated that many items contained no quality assurance marks or CE marks, while other equipment lacked technical specifications that detail the degree of perfection provided.
The HSE has come under intense pressure from healthcare personnel who have expressed concerns about dwindling supplies of PPE, so badly needed to help ensure they are not infected when treating patients with COVID-19.
Read more: Coronavirus live updates from Ireland
The Irish alert came after Holland complained about the quality of supplies before aircraft flew from Dublin to China to collect gear. One photograph of returned equipment showed protective gowns with three-quarter length sleeves, falling way short of full protection for the arms and hands.
The difference between the Sunday Business Post’s claim that almost four in 10 items were unsuitable, and the HSE’s 20 percent figure, was explained by
the medical organization’s chief executive Paul Reid.
He said 20 percent of the consignment sent from China did not meet the requirements of the Irish health service but would be used for other purposes at the present – for example in isolation units. Another 15 percent was “acceptable for use if a preferred product is not available.”
Some 65 percent of the first batch delivered was identified as suitable for use and was distributed around the country.
Reid said the HSE did not want any further deliveries of the unsuitable kit as part of the ongoing order. He said he expected to see samples with revised specifications sent this week, and the supplier was co-operating in this regard.
Meanwhile, the Republic’s chief medical officer Dr. Tony Holohan said people with second homes should not travel to them for the Easter bank holiday weekend. He also called on the public not to engage in unnecessary travel or leisure activities.