THE Government is considering wider distribution of antigen tests to the public, following months of debate over their effectiveness.
aoiseach Micheál Martin today confirmed that the expanded use of the rapid tests is under consideration as “people are using antigen testing now more frequently”.
Nphet has now recommended that people who frequently go to nightclubs, bars and restaurants should take antigen tests twice a week.
Ireland has lagged behind other countries in Europe in terms of its use of the tests.
Speaking in Galway, Mr Martin said: “People are using antigen testing now more frequently, and there is and government will be giving consideration in terms of wider distribution of antigen testing to the public.”
Speaking about the latest Nphet letter overall and the advice to work from home where possible, the Taoiseach said: “I received the letter (from Nphet) this morning in transit via email from the Minister for Health. I think the first point is the numbers are increasing and that is a concern.
“I think the main import of Nphet’s advice is on all of us to restrict our socialisation; monitor out behaviour.
“And a very strong piece on mask wearing, particularly in outdoor sporting events that masks must now be worn in large crowds or congregated settings. Particularly for people who are vulnerable or have underlying conditions medical grade masks must be worn.
“And just generally if we all just overall reduce socialisation and then cumulatively that will have an effect.
“Secondly, on the return to work the CSO estimate that it’s at about 50pc now. Nphet are advising that we reconsider that advice.
“The Government will consider that early next week on Monday and Tuesday.”
He noted the advice of Sage in the UK that travelling to and from work increased risk, but also pointed out that employers and trade unions had done “very effective work” on safety protocols.
The Taoiseach also said the advice around extension of vaccine certs would be looked at but there “is nothing specific as of yet, in terms of other sectors”.
Questioned about mixed messaging from officials, considering nightclubs were now open but people were being asked to work from home, he said: “I’ve heard that argument so often but the bottom line is Nphet advises, and the government then will decide… When you reopen society it’s not as clear cut locking down society.”
Turning to vaccinations and booster shots, he added: “The overarching advice really is around communicating to the public the fact that the cases are increasing; the vaccination are working in terms of creating some kind of stability around admissions to hospitals, ICU’s and mortality.
“The booster campaign, the letter says from Nphet, is effective. Particularly now in the over-80s we can see declining numbers getting ill.
“We expect to see that continue on in the rollout to the over 60s and healthcare workers. So the continued rollout of the booster campaign will also be an important element of dealing with this acute phase of the pandemic.”
Asked about a contingency plan if numbers keeps surging, Mr Martin said: “Nothing can be ruled out into the future, that’s clear from the advice of Nphet. What you have read and heard is the limit to what Nphet is advising government at this particular point in time.
“And I think the impact of the booster is something we will keep an eye on in respect to the degree to which it reduces admissions to hospitals in certain age cohorts.”
Visit our Covid-19 vaccine dashboard for updates on the roll out of the vaccination program and the rate of Coronavirus cases Ireland