Cabinet to approve plans for subsidised antigen tests - Taoiseach

The National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) recommended that people involved in high-risk activities, such as going out to bars or nightclubs, take two tests per week.
Cabinet to approve plans for subsidised antigen tests - Taoiseach

James Ward, PA

The Government will examine measures to make antigen testing more affordable to encourage their widespread use among the public, the Taoiseach has said.

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly is set to bring proposals to Cabinet on Tuesday on the wider deployment of the rapid Covid-19 tests, but Micheál Martin has played down the prospect of them being made free.

It comes after public health experts recommended people involved in high-risk activities take two tests per week, as the number of Covid cases continues to soar.

A Cabinet sub-committee is set to meet on Monday to discuss the latest recommendations from the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) to curb the spread of the disease, which include a return to widespread working from home.

 

Speaking in Enniskillen following the Remembrance Sunday ceremony, Mr Martin said: “We are extremely concerned with the high rise in numbers and indeed with the impact that’s having on hospitalisation and admissions to intensive care units.

“We are looking to expand our testing and tracing, and particularly antigen testing.

“The Minister for Health will bring forward proposals with respect to the wider deployment of antigen testing, and also in terms of making it more affordable for people, to introduce a culture of greater utilisation of antigen testing.”

He added: “I don’t envisage the tests being made free. But we do want to encourage people to use antigen tests more regularly.”

Mr Martin said he could “never” rule out the introduction of more restrictions to fight the high incidence rate of Covid-19, but he noted that Nphet had not asked for such measures in their letter to Government this week.

“The Nphet letter is not advising a whole series of restrictions. Rather, it is making use of specific recommendations in respect of working from home” he said.

Mr Martin said the country was in a much better position than this time last year, thanks to the vaccine rollout.

He said the booster campaign was already having a positive impact: “The evidence internationally is that the third dose is quite impactful, more impactful than the second dose, it’s been said.

“Our data on the over 80s who have already had the booster is encouraging in that respect.

“But you also have to comply with existing guidance and, also, we have to collectively reduce socialisations.

“We have reopened society, the economy has bounced back, those are the positives, in terms of thousands and thousands going back to work.

“There are many positives to reopening society, but it is having an impact in terms of the delta variant being so much more transmissible.

“It’s having an impact on hospitalisations and the health service, as it is across Europe and across the world.

“We have to be very mindful of that and we can never rule out having to take measures to address that.”

Sunday brought a further 3,805 confirmed cases of Covid-19, the Department of Health confirmed.

There are currently 582 patients in hospitals with the disease, of which 106 were in ICU.

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