Antigen tests 'useful' in allaying return to work concerns, says Cork GP

Antigen tests 'useful' in allaying return to work concerns, says Cork GP

Pictured is an antigen test.Photograph: Sam Boal /

A CORK GP has said antigen tests can be “very useful” in allaying people’s concerns about Covid, with the increased return to workplaces and colleges getting underway.

Dr John Sheehan said while PCR testing remains “the gold standard” when it comes to Covid tests, he believes antigen tests have a role to play during the further easing of restrictions.

“I certainly feel they [antigen tests] have a role.

“I know they’re being piloted in UCC at the moment.

“Where they really come into use is they’re very good for ruling things out so that if you have a negative test you could be reasonably confident you don’t have Covid.

“If you have a positive test then you should get a PCR to confirm it because it could be positive for an infection that has just passed,” Dr Sheehan told The Echo.

“I think in terms of ruling things out and getting a quick answer - they’re not the answer to everything- but they can be very useful.”

Dr Sheehan’s comments came as yesterday the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) said based on current evidence, there is “uncertainty regarding the effectiveness of rapid antigen testing for screening of asymptomatic individuals with the aim of limiting transmission of SARS-CoV-2”.

In its latest advice submitted to the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET), HIQA continued to state that rapid antigen detection tests (RADTs) “may have a role in limiting transmission in certain circumstances, but only as an additional public health measure, rather than a replacement for known mitigation measures”.

Meanwhile, with the increased return to offices yesterday the Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU) moved to encourage employers to consider offering antigen tests to their employees for "an added layer of protection and reassurance in addition to known mitigation measures".

“This will be the first time that many have returned to the office since March 2020 and some people may feel anxious about going back into the office environment. 

“Antigen testing can provide an extra level of certainty as employees begin to return to the workplace and can provide clarity for anyone who has concerns in relation to possible Covid infection," IPU President, Dermot Twomey said.

This was echoed by Dr Sheehan.

“I think HIQA’s caution is they don’t want people to have false reassurance and then for people to stop doing all the other basic measures,” he said.

“The PCR certainly is the gold standard but I certainly think antigen tests can be very useful and they can take a lot of worry and anxiety off people.”

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