Free Antigen tests and further public health measures needed

31 December 2021

After the announcement of changes to the PCR testing regime and other Covid rules last night, Labour Health spokesperson Duncan Smith called for a further series of public health measures to be taken including:

  • Distribution of free Antigen tests with priority given to healthcare workers.
  • Employers must accept positive antigen tests for staff being absent from work with entitlement to sick pay.
  • A process for registering a positive antigen test with public health authorities.

Deputy Smith said:

“There is a shortage of antigen tests in the community and prices are rapidly increasing. What is needed right now is for these to be given for free to all healthcare workers who are on the frontline of this pandemic. I have written to the HSE CEO asking for this to be implemented.

“The massive growth in Omicron cases has put the PCR testing system under immense pressure and the new advice is for younger people aged under 39 to self-isolate and use antigen tests.

“However, prices are rapidly rising due to demand, and test kits are harder to find. The same young people we are asking now to self-isolate will have to go to a shop or pharmacy to get tests if they are symptomatic. The Minister should immediately commit to providing these for free and getting tests out as quickly as possible to people who need them.

“There should now also be a process put in place to allow people report a positive antigen test. This could also feasibly be done through their GP, or the Covid tracker app. We need to have some way to measure the leve of infection in the community.

“The changes to PCR testing will also cause confusion for some people. The key advice must be to self-isolate if you have any symptoms. Those with symptoms and now excluded from testing, and who still get a negative antigen test should still be allowed to get a PCR test to confirm if they have or don’t the virus after a set time point.

“With mostly younger people still waiting on their booster shot, it will be difficult for many to confirm if they are Covid free before getting their jab if they have any symptoms.”

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