CMO Tony Holohan says antigen tests should not be used for international travel 1 month ago

CMO Tony Holohan says antigen tests should not be used for international travel

The CMO has reiterated his reservations about the widespread use of antigen tests.

Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr Tony Holohan has said that while the use of antigen tests can be considered in some scenarios, they should not be used for international travel as of yet.

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The CMO made the comments to an Oireachtas Transport Committee on Wednesday afternoon, in which he reiterated his reservations about the widespread use of antigen tests.

"Access to timely and accurate Covid-19 testing is an essential component of a multi-faceted response strategy which supports case identification and contact tracing, clinical management of cases, infection prevention and control, and disease surveillance including in relation to emerging variants," Holohan said.

"In addition to our PCR testing capacity, substantial work is also being undertaken by the HSE to examine the potential role of rapid testing within the wider pandemic response.

“Based on existing evidence, use of rapid antigen testing may be considered in high-prevalence settings such as outbreaks where the pre-test probability of individuals being infected is high and where more rapidly available results may support PCR testing through the early identification of cases and implementation of appropriate follow-on public health actions.

"The HSE has already made rapid antigen tests available for deployment in such scenarios, where deemed appropriate by local public health doctors.

“Rapid testing may also be considered in higher risk environments for transmission of Covid-19 such as may exist in meat processing plants.

“The HSE has also made rapid antigen tests available for use in acute hospital settings."

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However, the CMO added that though rapid antigen tests may prove useful in controlled environments, more needs to be learned about their benefits and limitations.

He said PCR testing remains the "gold standard diagnostic test" for Covid-19.

The CMO told the committee: "As the evidence evolves – and assuming that this evidence is in support of the use of rapid antigen testing, we are more than willing to support its further use where appropriate evaluation indicates that it can bring added benefit in the pandemic response.

“Ultimately, however, based on knowledge to date, the safest way for us to reopen society, including to international travel, will be to continue to control the incidence of the disease... through a range of public health measures which are continuously reviewed as we do, along with progressing the national vaccination programme to ensure as many people as possible within the population are protected through immunisation.”