Air Corps ready for daily deliveries to German lab

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The Air Corps is on standby to start making daily flights delivering swabs for testing to a German laboratory.

The defence force’s fleet, first deployed in the national testing effort on the May bank holiday weekend, has since completed four “missions” to Germany.

With plans under way to increase testing of people in the community, the Defence Forces said it is prepared to fly to Germany on a daily basis to facilitate the delivery of test samples.

The Defence Forces said the Air Corps has been tasked by the Government to be on standby for deliveries on weekends and bank holidays and will make daily trips to Germany if required.

At present, a courier company delivers swabs to Germany for testing on weekdays only. It said it has been “advised that the frequency of missions, and number of tests to be delivered, will increase considerably as the national testing criteria has changed.

“As testing increases in the coming weeks, we are prepared to facilitate delivery of test samples to Germany on a daily basis, in order to supplement weekday courier operations”.    

Many of the missions will be carried out in the new Pilatus PC-12NG aircraft, recently purchased by the Defence Forces.

The Health Service Executive said it had reached a target set by public health experts of processing 15,000 tests a day by mid-May.

It is using 40 labs, most of which are hospital labs to test health workers and patients, and the German lab.

The HSE originally contracted the German laboratory, Eurofins Biomnis, to clear a backlog of untested swabs caused by delays in the system. The arrangement continues now that the backlog is cleared and as public health experts push for wider testing in the community.

Many of the missions will be carried out in the new Pilatus PC-12NG aircraft, recently purchased by the Defence Forces.

The HSE said the success of the restrictions in containing the spread of the virus has seen fewer people coming forward for testing.  

The other laboratory used for large-scale community testing by the HSE, Enfer, in Co Kildare, is carrying out far fewer tests than it is capable of performing.

“Enfer currently provides approximately 6,500 tests per day capacity for Covid-19 testing, with the potential to expand. 

“We have been operating well below capacity for the past week, with 4,500 tests per day due to the effectiveness of the current restrictions.”

The HSE wants to have as much testing capacity as possible available in the event of any increase in infections.  

The HSE has published a roadmap to improve its testing and contact-tracing process for Covid-19, increasing testing and capacity, and reducing turnaround times.

Sunday Independent

Source: Irish News