26 January 2021
By Elaine Murphy
Fianna Fáil TD for Cork North Central, Pádraig O’Sullivan has welcomed the first allocation of antigen tests while calling for rapid antigen testing to be fully rolled out as soon as possible.
Rapid antigen testing is a solution to onsite rapid screening for SARS-CoV-2. It performs best in pre-symptomatic and early symptomatic cases up to five days from symptom onset and could significantly increase screening capacity for the virus nationally.
Deputy O’Sullivan commented,
“The importance of getting the country back to normal cannot be understated at this time as we continue to battle the pandemic. This could be a valuable tool at the disposal of our health providers in conjunction with social distancing measures and the rollout of the vaccine, with a result turnaround time of 15 minutes.
“Currently, rapid antigen testing is not being rolled out by the HSE. This service could easily be administered from the many HSE testing sites across the country by approved providers, which would significantly lower the cost involved.
“The WHO and the European Commission recommends rapid antigen tests that meet the minimum performance requirements of ≥80% sensitivity and ≥97% specificity, while the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control suggests aiming to use tests with a performance closer to RT-PCR, i.e. ≥90% sensitivity and ≥97% specificity. It is worth noting that products are available here that exceed these guidelines and comply with an EU recommendation that the test carries the CE mark.
“In terms of budget and cost, we should investigate as to whether or not an agreed testing cost could be offered as a tax rebate or credit at the end of the year on presentation of the required evidence. It could allow people to get back to work safely and would have a significant impact on the numbers currently receiving the PUP.
“Beyond the immediate need to get certain parts of the economy up and running, such as our schools and the construction sector, when the time is right, rapid testing could feature at our airports and ferry ports. This could support inbound tourism and the resumption of the hospitality industry as well as events across the country which are so important to both people and the economy,”
concluded Deputy O’Sullivan.