The Health Minister has been accused of spreading ‘propaganda’ after warning that anyone who gets a negative result from a rapid antigen COVID test should “pretty much ignore it.”
On The Pat Kenny Show this morning, Stephen Donnelly said he was a supporter of rapid-antigen testing but noted that a negative test result, “absolutely does not mean you are not infectious.”
Pat accused Minister Donnelly of attempting to “have it both ways” by claiming to be in support of rapid tests, while also warning that there is no point in using them.
“This is propaganda,” he said. “This is not fact.”
He then insisted NPHET’s warnings against the use of rapid antigen tests were, “out of line with pretty much every country in the developed world.”
Minister Donnelly pointed to the findings of the recent Cochrane Report which, he said, found that countries “really have to weigh up the risks and the benefits” of using the tests when there is a low prevalence of disease in the community or when you are testing asymptomatic people.
The Cochrane Report examined 64 studies and found antigen tests to be effective in identifying COVID in 72% of people who have symptoms.
That fell to 58% in people who have no symptoms.
“The real concern that Dr Holohan has and the people on NPHET have is that people get these tests, they may not be the right tests, they may not use them in the right way, they may take a different meaning from a negative result and therefore act in riskier ways that put themselves and other people at risk,” said Minister Donnelly.
He said only one test included in the Cochrane Review met the World Health Organisation's (WHO) minimum sensitivity and specificity requirements.
I’m sorry for Ireland. It’s about time that they invite someone who actually can explain to them why they are misinterpreting the Cochran review and all of the science behind rapid tests. We’ve written about it extensively. They are simply wrong on this.
— Michael Mina (@michaelmina_lab) May 13, 2021
“What we have got to do is really get the message out there that, if you are using the right test in the right way and if you get a positive result, you should go and get a PCR test,” said Minister Donnelly.
“The next bit is just as important. If you get a negative result, you should pretty much ignore it. It doesn’t mean you are negative.”
After Pat insisted that research has shown the tests to be effective in showing when people are infectious, the Minister said he was simply pointing out the Cochrane findings.
"If you go into Lidl and you buy one of those tests and you get a negative out of it, it absolutely does not mean you are not infectious."
He said it is “really important” that people do not act as if they are COVID-free after getting a negative result from an antigen test.
“I think they are useful because of the positive tests,” he said. “The best tests have an accuracy, in terms of the true positive, of about 99.9%.
“So, if you test positive, the chances are you are positive and you should go and get a PCR test.
“What these things are really good at is testing when you are both positive and infectious and therefore, even though you may pick up a very small number of people in the population, you are picking up people who are infectious and if they then go and isolate themselves and get a PCR test, you are stopping some of these super spreader events.
“That’s why I support them.”
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