Jack Quann
Jack Quann

10.42 20 Jul 2021


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The Health Service Executive (HSE) expects to begin rolling out antigen testing to close contacts of someone with COVID-19 from next week.

Close contacts will have to collect the antigen tests from a test centre, and then do them at home themselves.

Some 50,000 antigen tests have been sent to testing sites around the country in preparation.

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The HSE has only used PCR tests up until now, with a maximum capacity of 20,000 to 22,000 per day.

After this point, antigen testing will be used instead.

The HSE's national lead for testing and tracing, Niamh O'Beirne, told Pat Kenny testing has soared in the past few weeks.

"Yesterday in our swabbing sites we saw 16,000 people come forward for testing.

"So we expect that to rise as the week goes on, so it is likely then - into early next week - we will exceed that 20,000 mark in the community testing sites.

"And we'll begin to deploy antigen testing".

She says the surge in people looking for testing is a mixture of walk-ins and people who need to be tested due to contact tracing.

"There's about 30% actually show up at the test site as a walk-in, some are travel-related - which is the day five test on returning from overseas travel - and then about 10% are GP and the remainder are close contacts.

"So it's a kind of mixture across all those different routes."

'25% positivity rates'

And she says it is likely more people will be referred.

"We do also notice, as the cases increase, the number of people we refer as close contacts also increases.

"So that 20% to 30% per day that's referred as close contacts, when we pull that out of the testing numbers, we will drop demand on the sites to enable us to be able to get to everybody very quickly."

Ms O'Beirne says some sites are seeing up to 25% positivity, but less and less people are using the service as a reassurance measure.

"There was a period of time where, particularly when we did a pop-up [centre], we would actually ask the community to... come forward.

"At the moment I would say more and more are symptomatic - certainly over 60% - and we do have a rising positivity [rate].

"Some of the sites on some days do now reach 25% positivity."

And she says antigen should be ready to go from as early as next week.

"At the present rate of increase we think we'll reach that early next week.

"At the moment, for good planning, we would be expecting to deploy antigen at the beginning of next week".

This new approach will see those, identified as close contacts, being texted a code to collect an antigen test kit from a testing site.

This will contain five tests, which will be done at home via a nasal swab.

They can access 'how to' instructions via a link in the text message, which will include a video message.

It will be recommended that people over the age of 13 take four tests: on day zero, day five, day seven and finally day 10.

This would be in place of two PCR tests, which would have previously been used.

Ireland to start rolling out antigen tests 'at the beginning of next week'

00:00:00 / 00:00:00

    

Main image: A woman does a self-test at a pharmacy and puts a nasal swab in her nose herself. Picture by: Utrecht Robin/ABACA/ABACA/PA Images

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Antigen Testing Close Contacts Hse Ireland Niamh O’Beirne PCR PCR Tests Pat Kenny Testing

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