Ireland’s public health strategy for managing COVID-19 is now moving from a response based on testing and tracing infection to reduce transmission, to a mitigation phase focussed on reducing the impact of COVID-19 on those who are most vulnerable.
As a result of the successful COVID-19 vaccination programme, almost 97% of the population have received their primary course of vaccines. The protection offered by vaccines and booster doses mean that for the vast majority of people, COVID-19 is a mild disease which can be easily managed at home.
From Friday 9 December, and in line with Government policy, GPs will no longer be in a position, or be subsidised by the HSE, to refer patients to a community test centre, and any private patients attending their GP will be subject to normal consultation fees as applicable in their GP practice.
The emergency measures introduced in March 2020, where remote consultations, referrals to community testing centres and COVID-19 respiratory clinic consultations were provided to all free of charge will now cease.
Patients with GP Visit Cards and Medical Cards will not be affected by this change.
GPs will no longer refer patients to one of the 29 community testing centres but the HSE’s self-referral portal for tests at these centres remains open.
In addition, a new fee will be paid by the HSE to GPs to cover consultations with vulnerable patients for whom the GP requires the result of a COVID-19 test to contribute to the diagnosis and management of that patient, such as those who would benefit from the prescription of the COVID-19 antiviral medicine Paxlovid.
GPs can test vulnerable patients during consultations where clinically required to diagnose and treat COVID-19 rather than referring the patient to a HSE COVID-19 testing centre.
This €55 fee will be paid in respect of patients who are categorized as being at the highest risk of becoming ill from COVID-19, and it comes into effect on Friday 9 December.
Although COVID-19 testing is no longer advised for the majority, it is essential that everyone continues to follow all Public Health Guidelines as published on HSE.ie, and that anyone who has symptoms of COVID-19 should continue to self-isolate until 48 hours after symptoms have substantially or fully resolved.
Notes to editor:
Treatment for COVID-19 with Paxlovid anti-viral medication is currently recommended for people who are at the highest risk of becoming seriously ill from COVID-19.
The following patient groups have been identified as at the highest risk from COVID-19:
- are immunocompromised and have a weak immune system
- have not been fully vaccinated and are aged 65 or over
- have not been fully vaccinated and have additional risk factors
Patients may also be considered for Paxlovid if they are:
- vaccinated and aged 75 or over
- vaccinated and aged 65 or over with additional risk factors