By Michelle Devane, PA
Fine Gael senator Regina Doherty has called on the Government to introduce antigen testing in the aviation sector.
The leader of the Seanad said she could not understand why antigen testing had not been employed at a “far greater and far faster rate” than it has been to date.
She added it is “imperative” a pilot antigen testing programme is rolled out in advance of international travel resuming on July 19th.
“We’ve been incredibly cautious as a country, and rightly so because we needed to mind ourselves and our people,” Ms Doherty said.
The virus is not going to go away in September when we're all vaccinated
“But it’s now time to be ambitious. And I think maybe we’re not being ambitious enough.
“I don’t know why we are not employing antigen testing at a far greater and far faster rate than we are.
“We’ve a situation where we have an aviation industry on its knees crying out for a pilot [antigen testing scheme].
“We’ve a minister asking for a pilot and a CMO [chief medical officer], not giving that answer back because they hadn’t gotten the letter of the request but saying that he favours a pilot.
“So I think now it’s beyond time for us to say, let’s do a pilot [testing scheme] in our aviation industry.”
She also called for rapid antigen testing to be introduced in schools, offices and sporting fixtures, saying “I don’t understand why we aren’t using them, I really don’t”.
Speaking at Leinster House on the fourth day of Fine Gael’s Ard Fheis, Ms Doherty said antigen testing was being used across the world “yet we’re still here questioning and poking holes in it”.
“The virus is not going to go away in September when we’re all vaccinated,” she said.
“It’s going to be here for a couple of years before it fizzles out and we need to give people peace of mind that they can carry on.”
She claimed antigen testing is “far more accurate” and “cost-effective” than PCR testing when it comes to aviation.
Asked about whether the State should be paying for tests for people to go on their holidays, Ms Doherty replied: “This isn’t about going to Ibiza, but it shouldn’t be not about going to Ibiza too.”
She added: “We’re paying for PCR tests here for the last year, in probably the hundreds of millions to keep people safe. That doesn’t stop just because instead of getting on a bus they want to get on a plane.
“If we really want to keep people safe, well then we need to keep them safe and we need to employ the tools that we have to give them the peace of mind of what they’re doing, they can do safely.”