Free antigen tests to be made available for Government staff 1 month ago

Free antigen tests to be made available for Government staff

One TD has labelled the move "indefensible" as the general public waits on a cost-effective solution.

Leinster House staff will be offered antigen tests from next week.

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According to the Irish Examiner, the tests will be free and voluntary, and will be administered before Oireachtas staff leave home to attend work.

The move comes amidst calls for the general public to receive a supply of free antigen test kits as Covid-19 cases continue to rise throughout the country.

It is understood that the decision was made by the House of the Oireachtas in an employer capacity, as opposed to it representing an official political stance.

In a statement, the Houses of the Oireachtas moved to clarify reports that TDs and Senators would receive free antigen tests, noting that this is not the case.

"The antigen tests will not be free to TDs and Senators," it said on Twitter.

"As an employer, the Houses of the Oireachtas Service is making tests available free of charge to its staff who have to be on site. This is part of our continued efforts to keep the parliamentary community and workplace safe."

Social Democrats TD Gary Gannon has labelled the move "indefensible" as the public continues to wait for clarity.

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"It is incredible that arrangements for antigen tests would be put in place for TDs before teachers and children in primary schools," said Gannon.

“The government has now been promising for months to put in place a system of antigen testing in schools, but we are still none-the-wiser about the details of any proposed scheme. Speaking during the week, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly refused to give any indication of when this scheme is likely to be rolled out.

“In that context, it is indefensible for free antigen testing to be rolled out for TDs before they are made available for teachers and children. Schools are under severe pressure from the current onslaught of covid cases and testing is desperately required to identify case and suppress transmission."

Gannon also noted that a proposed subsidy scheme has yet to be outlined, resulting in high costs for those who choose to avail of antigen testing.

On Wednesday, Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan warned of a potential 200,000 active Covid cases in Ireland in December, and the prospect of as many as 4,000 hospitalisations.

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"There's still two weeks between now and the beginning of December, so a minimum of 200,000 cases occurring in December, all of which are preventable. Each one of us can take simple measures," said Holohan.

"People who are cases and who are symptomatic, they simply must self-isolate and then get a PCR test. Not an antigen test."