Five ‘no-appointment’ Covid test centres open in Dublin and Offaly

‘If I get the all-clear I will be reassured. I would be worried I would be asymptomatic’

There was a steady stream of people passing through the "pop-up" walk-in Covid-19 testing centre at Irishtown Stadium in Dublin on Thursday, availing of free tests without an appointment.

The handful that spoke to The Irish Times afterwards all declared themselves symptom-free. Most were curious to be tested, having never been swabbed before.

All wanted reassurance that they did not have the disease, and were happy to participate in the HSE’s efforts to identify asymptomatic cases in an effort to get ahead of the virus.

“Just out of curiosity,” said Mick, a local man in his 40s, when asked why he got tested. “I live down the road so it seemed like a good thing to do. They say that one in five cases are asymptomatic.”


The Irishtown walk-in centre was one of five to open on Thursday in a new initiative aimed at trying to track down the virus in the community by targeting areas with high incidence rates of Covid-19. There are three other centres in Dublin and one in Tullamore, Co Offaly.

Niamh O'Beirne, the HSE's national lead for testing and tracing, said that as of 6pm on Thursday – one hour before they closed for the day – the five test centres had swabbed 1,556 people, with the National Aquatic Centre in Blanchardstown, west Dublin, swabbing the most at 370.

Ms O’Beirne said there were a large number of people aged between 20 and 40 – “a good target group”–including students and young flatmates.

Each centre, in operation for a week, can carry out between 300 and 500 tests every day during the 11am to 7pm opening hours.

Additional administrative staff were assigned to the Grangegorman centre in the north inner city in Dublin to reduce waiting times on Thursday morning from 40 minutes to 20 minutes.

The Irishtown centre had swabbed the lowest at 6pm, with 224 people swabbed.

Two of those were students, Fergal and Shane, both 21, who live around the corner.

“I would like to know if I have it. I have been in contact with people through work,” said Shane.

Fergal described the process as “nice, easy, quick – in and out in two minutes”.

Bit happier

A secondary school teacher, who did not want to be named, said: “I just wanted to get it done, to be a bit happier about not having it. I am a teacher so I don’t want to expose others.”

Alex Hall (27) from Rathmines, who works in student accommodation, wanted reassurance. "I would be wary I would be spreading it to anyone else," she said.

Des O’Halloran (69), a retired public servant, also got tested for “peace of mind” because he, like everyone else, has “a fear of picking up this damn thing, so why not?”

“It is absolutely important that we identify those who could be spreaders so people can be protected and information is available out there,” he said.

“If I get the all-clear I will be reassured. I would be worried I would be asymptomatic because I live in an apartment block, sharing the lift and front door passageway.”

He acknowledged that the walk-in centres could have been set up earlier. “We all wish it was done a year but I understand we have been learning as we go.”

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell is News Editor of The Irish Times