People are ‘clearly’ still not using antigen tests appropriately, the Chief Medical Officer has told Newstalk Breakfast.
On the show this morning, Dr Tony Holohan said further restrictions are ‘not inevitable’ in the coming weeks.
He admitted that the new midnight curfew on pubs, restaurants and night clubs will make no difference on its own – but insisted that if people follow the whole suite of measures that are in place, transmission can be reduced.
The Chief Medical Officer said Department of Health research shows people are still not using antigen tests correctly.
“Our most recent set of data, from Wednesday of last week, shows that in the previous week, about one-in-five adults used an antigen test,” he said.
“It shows that the majority of those adults, when they used them, were symptomatic - which is not our advice - and it shows that, when they got a negative test, only about one-in-three of them went on to get a PCR test and to restrict or isolate themselves.
“Clearly people are not adequately following the advice about how they should appropriately be used.”
He said antigen tests have a role to play but only if they are used appropriately.
“We have to really ensure that people understand the message and use them not when they are symptomatic but when they are asymptomatic and respond only to a positive result,” he said.
“If you have a positive result when you don’t have symptoms, it might indicate you have early pre-symptomatic COVID and you should not undertake whatever activity it is you were planning to undertake – maybe having some people to your house or attending an event or whatever.
“Unfortunately, a negative result when you don’t have symptoms does not allow you to conclude that you don’t have COVID."
He said the most important thing for people to remember is that, if you have symptoms, a negative antigen test changes nothing – you must stay at home and book a PCR test.
Pubs and restaurants
The Chief Medical Officer admitted that the new midnight curfew on pubs, restaurants and night clubs will make no difference on its own – but insisted that people can reduce transmission by following all the guidance that is in place.
“It is not about one single measure and one single indicator,” he said.
“If the only thing that changes is that Government’s mandate on hospitality changes the time people go to the pub, but nothing else changes, then you are absolutely right [it won’t be game-changing].
“I think it is an important signal. Government did more than that, they also mandated that people should work from home unless absolutely necessary.
“It is the signal that comes from all of these things – that this is now a serious situation that is having a serious impact on public health - which is most important - and then a secondary effect of the impact on our health system, particularly our hospitals."
He said there is “good and encouraging evidence” that people are reducing their social interactions since the latest restrictions were announced.
“At least anecdotally, there is a lot of evidence, a lot of talk that people are stepping back - unfortunately having to - but showing the responsibility to step back their Christmas plans and Christmas gatherings and so on,” he said.
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