Covid-19 testing centres to close from today but people with symptoms should still ‘stay home’

Coronavirus will be treated similarly to other respiratory illnesses due to impact of vaccines and naturally acquired immunity

The national lead of the HSE’s Covid-19 test, trace and vaccination programme, has said that even though testing centres will close from Thursday, people should continue to observe respiratory etiquette and should stay at home if experiencing symptoms.

Eileen Whelan told RTÉ Radio’s Morning Ireland that from Thursday morning, PCR testing will no longer be required by the general public.

“This 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 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.

“So for the general public, you no longer need to have to call to test. So we’re closing our testing centres and we’re closing down the online booking platform for anybody who has symptoms. So that’s respiratory symptoms, like a dry cough. Anybody who’s feeling fatigued or if you have a high temperature the advice is to stay at home, avoid contact with other people. 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.”


Ms Whelan denied that Ireland was moving faster than advice from the World Health Organisation (WHO). There is still a global health emergency but Ireland, in comparison with other countries, had experienced a really good uptake in vaccination throughout the pandemic, she explained.

“Our public health doctors have updated the advice and we have watched what’s happening in other countries internationally. 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.”

Ms Whelan said the advice remained that if a person had symptoms they should stay at home and avoid contact with other people. She said this was important as it was the best way to break the chain of transmission.

“We continue to recommend good respiratory etiquette, good hand hygiene. And I think the general public and all of us have improved our practice in that from the experience of Covid.”

Frontline healthcare workers and people who are dealing with patients, especially those who are clinically vulnerable, may still need to undergo a risk assessment, she added. When asked about booster vaccinations for people in high risk categories, Ms Whelan said she anticipated that NIAC will recommend a booster vaccination for people in the high risk categories – people who are over 65, people living in residential care settings and people who are immunocompromised.

Vivienne Clarke

Vivienne Clarke is a reporter