Today the HSE announced a “free, walk-in, no appointment testing facility”, will operate out of Mick Neville Park sports-ground in Rathkeale, for the local community, from 10am-7pm, this Friday.
However when asked to clarify if the facility would be open seven days a week or less, a HSE spokesman responded: “No, this is a one off additional test facility for tomorrow only, nothing after that as we now have Gaelic Grounds and St Jospeh’s Health Campus”.
Two full-time testing centres are operating seven days a week at the Gaelic Grounds Limerick GAA stadium on the outskirts of the Treaty City, as well as on the grounds of St Joseph’s Health Campus on Mulgrave Street.
The HSE spokesman said that person’s attending the Rathkeale facility must “bring their date of birth and up to date contact telephone information with them, and adhere to public health guidelines around physical distancing at the venue”.
The testing centre will be available for those who “live in the Rathkeale area and are interested in getting tested for Covid 19”.
The spokesman added: “In order to protect individual people, families, neighbours and the community, it is sometimes very important to actively look for cases of Covid-19”.
“Some people who are infectious might not have any symptoms at all (asymptomatic) or their symptoms might be so mild as to be almost unnoticeable. This characteristic of Covid-19 infection makes it difficult to prevent spread of infection and protect people. Active case finding helps us to pick up unknown cases of infection who might cause ‘invisible’ spread of infection and for us to put in protective measures.”
Persons who having attended the Rathkeale facility and who test negative for the virus, will receive results via “text message”.
This process could take “up to five days”, the spokesman said, meanwhile persons who test positive will be communicated with “over the phone”.
“If you recently came to Ireland and have to restrict your movements for 14 days, you should continue to do so even if you have received a negative COVID-19 test result until the 14 day period is completed,” the spokesman added.
When told the Rathkeale facility was a “one off”, local Fianna Fáil councillor Kevin Sheehan responded: “Its not good enough, a full time test centre is required”.
Cllr Sheahan said he “formally proposed” a motion last Tuesday “calling on the Minister for Health and Department of Health to provide a testing facility in Rathkeale, that we would have a lot of visitors coming to Rathkeale between now and Christmas”.
“A test centre permanently based in Rathkeale up until January is what is required,” Cllr Sheahan added.
Last week two local politicians, Independent Cllr Emmett O’Brien and Cllr Adam Teskey, Fine Gael, raised concerns of a potential outbreak in Rathkeale, with booth claiming they had information that a large group of people were en route to the town from Eastern Europe.
Cllr O’Brien had stated that because of this, he feared Rathkeale would become “the Lombardy of Ireland” – Lombardi was previously the worst hit region in Italy at the height of the pandemic.
“The point is our inability to detain people (at ports and airports) who are unwilling to self-isolate, that’s the real issue. Where are our local government ministers, are they too busy playing golf?,” Cllr O’Brien said.
He added a “local lockdown would destroy Limerick”, and that, “there are a number of effected people in Rathkeale already who are not self-isolating and the last thing I want is to have Limerick locked down, because of the effect it will have on mental health, on cardiac services, on diagnoses of cancers”.
Reacting to news of the Rathkeale facility being opened tomorrow Cllr O’Brien said: “I think there still remains a significant threat that the risk of infected people travelling from abroad before the end of September.”
“The testing facility at Mick Neville Park is a welcome development, but we must remain vigilant but without losing focus in what remains important, our families, social cohesion and our ability to put food on the table for our loved ones,” he added.
Cllr Adam Teskey, Fine Gael, had, prior to today’s announcement about the Rathkeale test facility, stated that he was “aware there is people returning home from Europe and people have gone abroad and are returning home” and that he shared the concerns of local people.
“People are coming into airports and port terminals and they are not being tested, and I can see a massive increase in Covid-19 cases as a result of that in Co Limerick,” he said in an interview September 2.