Marita Moloney
Marita Moloney

08.55 6 Sep 2020


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People coming into Ireland from countries not on the green list could soon be able to avoid quarantine if they pass a COVID-19 test on arrival.

The proposal has been welcomed as "a good plan in theory" by infectious diseases expert Professor Sam McConkey.

The Sunday Times is reporting today that the Government may introduce rapid testing at airports as part of its new long term 'Living With COVID' plan.

The plan is set to be announced on September 14th.

Prof McConkey, Head of the Department of International Health and Tropical Medicine at the Royal College of Surgeons, said we need to first ascertain the "performance characteristics of the test".

Speaking on Newstalk Breakfast, he said false-negative results are a common element of all diagnostic testing.

He said there is a "legitimate concern" that people coming into the country would test negative on arrival but subsequently develop symptoms of COVID-19 a few days later.

Prof McConkey said: "As we all learned from the cervical screening issues over the last number of years, false negatives happen with every diagnostic test.

"Equally so with the COVID-19 PCR test, for various reasons that can't be fixed at all because there's not enough volume of virus there to pick it up at an early stage.

"False-negative tests are a reality of diagnostic testing and screening of every healthcare system and there's nothing you can do to change that.

He said if "only one in a hundred" people tested negative and then began showing symptoms while in the country, "we could handle that".

However, if it was "fifty-fifty" of false negatives then the test at airports "would not be adequate".

HIQA is currently reviewing rapid-testing kits on the market that can produce results within hours.

If shown to be accurate enough, the tests could be used on passengers at ports and airports by the end of the month.

He said this review would assess whether there is a type of test that would be suitable.

Prof McConkey added: "I hope there is because that would be far better than people having to stay 14 days in restricted movements.

"I would be delighted and I think, in theory, that would be a good plan and work really well if we can find a test that's good enough for purpose."

Main image: Passengers wearing masks as they come through arrivals in Dublin Airport. Picture by: Leah Farrell / RollingNews.ie

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