There will be a shortage of antigen tests for Covid-19 in Ireland this week as further stocks are awaited, the secretary general of the Irish Pharmacy Union has warned.
Darragh O’Loughlin told RTÉ radio’s Today show that pharmacies are running out of antigen tests and some are putting a limit on the quantities of tests that individuals can purchase.
It comes after record-breaking infection numbers have already caused PCR test shortages, with people aged between four and 39 requiring a positive antigen test result before they can seek PCR testing as a result.
Mr O’Loughlin said antigen test suppliers were having difficulties amid "phenomenal" demand.
Demand for supply has “soared” beyond production capacity, he said, not just in Ireland, but also in the UK, the US and Australia.
It was his understanding that there were orders due into the country later this week, but in the meantime there would be shortages.
Suppliers were “nudging” prices back up, Mr O’Loughlin said, because manufacturers had also increased prices. He denied it was a case of pharmacies “gouging” customers.
Earlier on Tuesday, the HSE’s lead on the vaccination and contact tracing programmes Damien McCallion said that it had sufficient supplies of antigen tests for the month of January and would continue to monitor the situation.
He added that Ireland's number of Omicron cases is “substantially higher” than the levels officially recorded through PCR tests, and predicted that the testing system will remain “under strain” for at least a week.
The director general of the Health Service Executive (HSE) has instructed Irish hospitals to scale down elective procedures and to prioritise both urgent care and Covid-19 care for the next 14 days as the Omicron wave of infections impacts the health service.
Paul Reid issued the letter to hospital management as the number of people hospitalised with the virus rose to 884 this morning – a rise of 80 in 24 hours and more than double the figure seen on Christmas Day.