Pat Kenny calls Stephen Donnelly's antigen test stance "propaganda" during heated debate
"Stephen, this is bad. This is propaganda. This is not fact."
Presenter Pat Kenny has called Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly's stance on antigen testing "propaganda" during a heated debate on Thursday.
Speaking on the Pat Kenny show, Donnelly said that just because you get a negative result, "doesn't mean you are negative", during the discussion about antigen testing.
He added that antigen tests have a significantly lower rate of accuracy than PCR test, according to the Cochrane Report.
"This isn't like putting on a mask, there's a lot of serious work that has to be done to make sure that people are using the right test in the right way, and then what we've got to do is really get the message out there that if you're using the right test in the right way, and if you get a positive result, you should go and get a PCR test," he said.
"If you get a negative result, you should pretty much ignore it. It doesn't mean you're negative. The best tests used in the best ways are about 50% accurate, some of them are as low as 3% or 4% accurate. That's the key."
Kenny replied by stating that Donnelly was using "propaganda", adding that "science indicates that properly used antigen tests reveal when people are infectious".
"Stephen, this is bad. This is propaganda. This is not fact. I mean, the science indicates that properly used antigen testing reveals when people are infectious. That is the science and now you're telling me that only one test works," Kenny added.
Stephen replied: "No, let me be clear. I'm not a scientist, I'm not an expert in this stuff. What I'm saying to you is the Cochrane Report, which is a well-regarded review, they found that only one single test when you follow the manufacturer's instructions met the minimum stipulated sensitivity and specificity.
"There is a wide variety of sensitivity, which is the positives, and some of the pilots have shown accuracy of about 3% but others have shown accuracy in excess of 50%. The point being Pat, if you get one of these tests and you get a negative, it doesn't mean you're negative. That's the most important thing to take away."
The Newstalk presenter said that the test would be classified as "useless" by Donnelly's own "commentary".
"Stephen, you're actually saying it's pointless, that you're in favour of them but there's no point in buying them, that people cannot be trusted to do it properly and even if they are trusted to do it properly, but sure, it's probably wrong," he said.
"That's what you're saying. You cannot have it both ways, that you're in favour of them and then you disparage them.
"But surely they're useless, by your last commentary they are useless, which is not what the international experience is."
The Health Minister said that he does not disparage antigen testing, however, it is "really important" that people do not take a negative result as a sign that they are not infectious.
"It's not what I'm saying at all, what I'm saying is if you get a negative result, under no circumstances does that mean that you are not infectious, and please do not behave as if you have a result that says you are not infectious," Donnelly continued.
It comes as earlier this week Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Doctor Tony Holohan said that antigen tests could cause "potential super-spreading events" if used incorrectly.
Speaking with Bryan Dobson on RTÉ News at One on Monday, Dr Holohan said that he is concerned the tests will cause "false reassurance" for members of the public.
Last week, retail giant Lidl announced it would begin to sell Covid-19 antigen tests for just €24.99 per pack of five in all Irish stores as of 7 May.
However, the retailer was met with criticism by both Dr Holohan and Maynooth University President, Phillip Nolan following the announcement.
"The risk that we see, and I wasn't critical of retailers, I was advising people in terms of their behaviours, to not buy these tests in retail environments and then use them," Dr Holohan said on Monday.
"It's not an issue of antigen testing, it's about people's interpretation of what the result means, and it's really, really important that antigen testing is used, like any other test or any other technology, in certain circumstances, where we know its use is underpinned by really good evidence that it works.
"The risk we see is that if you get a negative test, it might falsely reassure you."
Lidl has encouraged shoppers who purchase the tests "to continue to stringently follow the public health advice", saying the tests should only be used as an added level of reassurance.
A spokesperson for Lidl said: "We have the utmost respect and support for NPHET and the Government, and have stringently followed and promoted their health advice since the onset of the pandemic.
"We urge our customers to carefully read the manufacturer instructions on these EU approved tests before use, which direct users to follow local government advice on receiving the results of the test.
"Our communication to date has clearly referenced that antigen testing should only be used as an additional measure to provide extra reassurance to customers in addition to following the public health advice. This is a serious issue, and we believe that our antigen tests can play a role in the prevention of the spread of this disease."