December 30, 2021
Antigen testing must be made free and accessible to support overwhelmed PCR testing system – David Cullinane TD

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Health David Cullinane TD has called on government to make antigen testing widely and freely available to ease the pressure on the PCR testing system, which is currently overwhelmed due to the rampant Covid-19 transmission rates across the state.

Teachta Cullinane has raised his concerns with Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly, and has called on him to set out a strategy to manage what has become a rapidly deteriorating situation.

Teachta Cullinane said:

“The Omicron variant is now rampant in communities right across the state. 

“The surge in case numbers is placing unprecedented pressure on the PCR testing system.

“Current HSE capacity is 300,000 tests a week. That is 6% of the population being tested every week.  

“But we are approaching, or are at, full capacity, and the system is struggling to cope with the unprecedented demands being placed upon it. 

“It is therefore clear that we must now place a far greater emphasis on antigen testing.

“One third of positive cases through a PCR followed a positive antigen test. That is all the more reason to see greater use of antigen testing, and for it to be made freely available.

“We need to utilise all tools available to us to suppress the spread of Covid-19, so it therefore beggars belief that the government continues to dither when it comes to a public rollout of antigen testing.

“Minister Donnelly needs to act now and set out a strategy to manage what is a rapidly deteriorating situation. 

“The first part of that strategy should be to make antigen testing widely accessible and free, as it is in the north and as we have consistently been calling for.

“Antigen testing must also be given a more formal and prominent place in the overall testing system, as proposed by the Ferguson Report on the use of antigen testing. 

“These testing and suppression measures must be backed up with clear and unequivocal public health advice on isolating.

“I have raised these concerns with Minister Donnelly and am awaiting a response.”

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