The Government is likely to proceed with subsidising antigen tests despite the strong reservations of the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) to widespread use of the rapid Covid test.
Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said on Sunday that he “strongly suspects” the Cabinet will decide at its meeting on Tuesday to make the test more affordable to people.
“Are we going to use it more widely? Of course we will. Are we going to make it more affordable, I strongly suspect we will,” he told RTÉ’s The Week in Politics.
It is likely that the move will lead to charges per antigen test as low as €1 to €2, with the kits widely available in pharmacies and supermarkets.
Mr Coveney also told the programme that future lockdowns were not inevitable, but the Government would have to take cognisance of future health advice.
The chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan and Nphet’s head of forecasting Professor Philip Nolan have both expressed doubts over subsidising antigen testing.
They are concerned the tests will not be used properly by people, who will get false reassurances over their Covid status.
In an interview with This Week on RTÉ, Prof Nolan said: “Our own data shows us that antigen tests are not being used well.
“So for instance, of people who use an antigen test in the past week or so, those who were symptomatic on a positive antigen test, less than a third went on to get the confirmatory PCR tests.
“We have legitimate concerns that we know the tests are not being used well. If you are an asymptomatic close contact to use the test, but if you are involved in higher risk activities not to use these tests if you have symptoms suggesting you have Covid-19. If you have symptoms you need a PCR test.”