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Sam Boal
antigen test

People will be able to register their positive antigen test on the HSE website from tomorrow

People will be able to upload their close contacts through the online system.

LAST UPDATE | 13 Jan 2022

PEOPLE WILL BE able to register their positive antigen test on the HSE website from tomorrow. 

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly told reporters at the RDS vaccination centre this morning that the HSE portal will go live tomorrow and will be phased in over the day.

People will be able to directly upload their own positive antigen tests results and upload their close contacts through the online system.

Close contacts will then get contacted in the same way that happens through the PCR system.

Logging an antigen test on the portal does not qualify people for a recovery cert, a PCR test or a professional antigen test is required to receive the certificate. 

Cabinet yesterday agreed to a number of rule changes, such as those who test positive through an antigen test having to have a confirmatory PCR test. 

Instead, those people can use the new online portal.

It was also agreed that those who have had the booster jab and have no symptoms will be advised that they do not have to restrict their movements.

The health minister acknowledged today that as a person does not have to prove or show their antigen test, but merely log their antigen test result onto the system, that it is open to people to putting up false results.

Those in government believe there is an element with the new system that they must “take people at their word”.

“I think like most things in this pandemic, we are relying on people doing the right thing,” he said, adding that over the last two years people have followed the public health advice and have “continually done the right thing,” Donnelly told reporters today.

“Is it open to, you know, to a bit of play acting? It is,” he said, before adding that he is confident that it will be used responsibly.

Recovery certs

At a HSE press briefing this afternoon, Damien McCallion, the head of Ireland’s vaccination programme, said the regulations are clear that the system is just for public health purposes and it does not enable people to get a recovery cert. 

“The purpose of it is so that you can give the person the public health advice, identify the close contacts, give them public health advice and get them tested if necessary. So, it isn’t for any other purpose in effect,” McCallion said.

“For the purpose of a recovery certificate, it’s PCR or a professionally administered antigen test. The regulations are very clear. So it doesn’t assist people in that regard,” he added.

Given that antigen tests as well as PCR tests will now be counted in the daily notification figures, it is expected that there could be a surge in cases reported.

It is understood that those in government are keen the HSE differentiates between the antigen test and PCR test numbers when they are issuing the daily figures.

The Journal reported yesterday that there is optimism among ministers that restrictions will begin to be eased in February, as long as critical care numbers remain stable. 

Speaking about this, Donnelly said health experts told him today that they’re not seeing anything in the pre intensive care hospital patients or the non intensive care patients that would suggest that those numbers are going to start rising quickly in the coming days.

“I was talking to some of our intensive care people this morning and they were reporting that the numbers are still steady… so again, very, very positive stuff,” he added.

Hospital figures

With over 1,000 people in hospital at the moment, the minister said some are in being treated for Covid alone, while another portion – called incidental Covid – are in hospital for other illnesses, and Covid is “not really the reason that they’re in there”, he said.

The number of patients with Covid-19 in hospital but who have been admitted for other reasons is around 30%, Chief Medial Officer Dr Tony Holohan said yesterday.

He also said that public health experts would try and assess the level of immunity and its impact on restrictions at their meeting next Thursday.

Donnelly said today “given the extraordinarily contagious nature of Omicron” he would suspect there is a high level of immunity among the population, noting what Professor Philip Nolan said yesterday in terms of there being a lot more cases out there than are being recorded.

The health minister was also asked about the ending of all restrictions by the end of February, given the uptake in the booster jabs, as well as the immunity levels.

“I think that’s the question we should always be asking. Any restrictions we put in place are very, very serious… I think particularly the restrictions that impinge upon people’s freedoms, impinge upon people’s civil liberties, they’re very, very serious, even when they’re not under regulation, even when they’re advisory,” he said, adding that such advices and restrictions impact upon people, their businesses and come at a huge cost.

“We’re all aware as well of the isolation and the impact on mental health… So I think not only should we be asking that question. I think that’s a question we should always ask, we should only have these restrictions in place if there’s a very good public safety and public health rationale for them,” said Donnelly.

While the minister seemed optimistic that the government can move towards scrapping restrictions in the coming weeks, if critical care remains stable, he said it is “a little bit too early” for him to pre-empt how and when the government might ease restrictions.

With reporting from Céimin Burke

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