Dublin stadium is now virus drive-thru testing site

Dublin (AFP) –


Ireland's largest sports stadium is now serving as a drive-thru coronavirus testing site, Ireland's health service said Wednesday.

"Croke Park is one of the designated testing centres for north Dublin," a spokeswoman for the Health Service Executive (HSE) said.

Testing at the arena by appointment only began on Tuesday.

The 80,000 capacity Croke Park in central Dublin is usually reserved for fans of Irish sports hurling and Gaelic football.

Once fully operational the test site is expected to handle an average of eight cars every 15 minutes, seven days a week, for 12 hours a day.

Irish pubs, schools and universities have been closed until 29 March to stem the spread of COVID-19.

Gatherings of more than 100 people have also been restricted and "social distancing" measures -- including working from home -- are highly recommended.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Leo Varadkar warned there were likely to be 15,000 cases of coronavirus in Ireland by the end of March, and that the crisis could last into the summer months.

"This is the calm before the storm –- before the surge," he warned in a St. Patrick's Day address to the nation as it celebrated its patron saint.

"We will get through this and we will prevail."

Ireland has so far suffered two deaths from the coronavirus and health department figures published late on Wednesday showed there were 366 confirmed cases of COVID-19 across the country, a jump of 74 on the previous day.