March 2020 | Márta 2020

Frontline Friday

Fri, 20 March 20 08:00

An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar T.D. and Minister for Health, Mr Simon Harris T.D. with Dr Cillian de Gascun, Director of the National Virus Reference Laboratory.

Hail to Our Heroes

We are extremely proud of the phenomenal clinical service that all our colleagues in hospitals and general practices across that country are performing in the national response to Covid-19.  From the Chief Medical Officer, Dr Tony Holohan (UCD Medicine 1991), Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Dr Ronan Glynn and the Health Service Executive’s Chief Clinical Officer, Dr Colm Henry (UCD Medicine 1988) to our medicine interns across the country and all grades in between. 

Our sincere thanks to all doctors, radiographers, paramedics and laboratory scientists as well as to nurses, midwives, physiotherapists from our University, from other Irish Medical Schools and indeed from around the world.  We appreciate the calm, clear and compassionate leadership from our politicians – those in caretaker government and those in opposition - who have distinguished themselves by recognising early the need for the country to mobilise to mitigate the effects of this global health crisis.

The oft maligned managers and administrators are proving their worth by re-organising around our national action plan and in support of frontline carers and their patients.  The wave of voluntary efforts unleashed is impressive as a national statement of solidarity and reminds us of our innate human decency.  The global nature of this pandemic and the nationality diversity among our healthcare professionals makes us all more connected as the world grapples with this coronavirus.

With Thanks to the National Virus Reference Laboratory

It isn’t surprising that much attention has been focused on the UCD National Virus Reference Laboratory based on the UCD Belfield campus.  Led by Dr Cillian de Gascun, this 100+ strong workforce of clinical and laboratory scientists, and their support staff provides a diagnostic and reference service for clinicians investigating viral infections throughout Ireland. The laboratory is affiliated to our School and has provided a virology diagnostic service to the Irish health service for over forty years.

Prior to the current pandemic, NVRL typically performed over 700,000 tests annually, involving some 120 tests for 40 different pathogens and it provides specialist reference services which have been developed as a result of medical and technical expertise built over many years.  As one would expect of a national virology service, it offers its service users accredited tests in line with national and international best practice.

Behind the Trees is NVRL by Sarah McLoughlin ( @McLoughlinSarah)

The NVRL has been awarded accreditation by the Irish National Accreditation Board to undertake schedule of clinical tests.  They were also the nominated World Health Organisation (WHO) national laboratory for the eradication of Polio, national reference laboratory for Measles and Rubella and the national Influenza centre.

The NVRL was the first facility in Ireland to test for the Covid-19 coronavirus although testing has now been extended to other facilities throughout the country.  The initial testing of 300 samples per day during the early weeks of the national emergency is expected to grow rapidly to at least 15,000 per day and the volume of tests performed by NVRL in 2020 will dwarf the cumulative work throughout its 40 year history.

Our sincere thanks to the staff of the National Virus Reference Laboratory for their dedication and critical service during this current pandemic emergency.  We were pleased to see An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar T.D. and Minister for Health, Mr Simon Harris T.D. visit the NVRL this week to personally thank staff for their hard work in the battle to contain Covid-19.  Our thanks also to NVRL Director, Dr Cillian de Gascun for his leadership both at NVRL, for chairing the National Expert Advisory Group on Coronavirus and for his participation in daily media briefings.

Director-General of the World Health Organisation, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called on countries to ‘test, test, test’ for the Covid-19 virus to allow countries identify, isolate and trace new cases to suppress the virus spread.  Suppression is essential for buying time to develop new treatments and manufacture much-needed equipment.  NVRL are at the forefront of those efforts.


We know that there will be many heroes of this emergency and we hope to profile some of them in the coming weeks.  We’d be happy to receive your nominations and testimonials for inclusion in our #FrontlineFriday.  Suggestions to