Rapid Covid-19 antigen testing pilots at sporting events, workplaces and schools have been recommended as part of a “safe sustainable” reopening of society.
A report from an expert group, appointed by the Minister for Health and composed of professors of immunology and infectious diseases, recommends widespread pilots of rapid tests across different sectors.
The report recommends the introduction of self-administered rapid tests, such as lateral flow antigen tests (LFAT) and loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP) tests, to complement existing national polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing programmes.
It recommends that testing pilots be rolled out across various sectors with the aid of Government departments “with a view to making rapid testing part of Ireland’s collective and sustained response to Covid-19.”
Pilot programmes should be established in settings such as nursing homes, prisons, homeless shelters and direct provision centres, the report says.
Pilots are also recommended for staff working in industries such as hospitality, retail, manufacturing and construction.
“Particular focus should be paid to young people who will be the last to be vaccinated, who are more likely to be asymptomatic, have been identified as key, early drivers of new waves of SARS-CoV-2 infection, have the lowest risk of severe disease and the greatest desire to socialise responsibly,” the expert group wrote.
It is hoped that the use of the tests could aid officials in identifying Covid-19 cases rapidly and suppress outbreaks.
Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said antigen testing was “a fast-developing and exciting field."
"New and improved rapid test systems are emerging all the time and I firmly support the introduction of rapid testing as an additional tool in our collective effort against Covid-19.”
The Rapid Testing Group was chaired by Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government, and its report is available in full here.