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Covid-19 testing to date has cost the State €84 million

Despite Leo Varadkar saying each test costs €200 – the average cost per test is €98.

If the 100,000 per week capacity of testing is maintained until the end of the year, it will cost an additional €375 million.
If the 100,000 per week capacity of testing is maintained until the end of the year, it will cost an additional €375 million.
Image: RollingNews.ie

THE TOTAL COST of Covid-19 testing to date is €84 million.

The Department of Public Expenditure has confirmed that 447,000 processed tests have cost €44 million.

Capital costs of the centres, equipment and reagent has cost €33 million, as of 3 July.

Despite Tánaiste Leo Varadkar stating in May that the average cost per test to the State is €200, the department confirmed that the unit cost is approximately €98 per test, albeit with variation depending on the provider.

Correspondence seen by TheJournal.ie confirms government officials queried where the then-Taoiseach got the €200 figure from after it was reported in the media, with one email from a department official asking: “I am unsure where the Taoiseach is getting the €200 cost from.”

The department also confirmed that initially €41 million was budgeted for in the government Covid-19 Action Plan in March.

This was supplemented by a Government decision in June to allocate an additional €167 million to increase testing and tracing capacity to 100,000 per week until 31 August. 

That capacity target is set to be reassessed at the end of the month.

Depending on whether the government decides to maintain the 100,000 testing capacity, the cost estimates for the rest of the year vary.

If the 100,000 per week capacity of testing is maintained until the end of the year, it will cost an additional €375 million. 

If it is reduced to 50,000 per week, it would cost €207 million.

If reduced to 30,000 tests per week then it would cost the State €153 million.

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Correspondence between officials states that with swabbing and testing on a downward trend (as low as 20,000 per week), the other scenarios of 50k or 75k are “looking more and more cost‐effective”.

The department said that in addition to the one-off costs, there are relatively small costs associated with having the 100,000 capacity on-hand even if it is not used.

It notes that these have been minimised through ongoing negotiations between the HSE and laboratories, stating that the HSE are primarily paying for capacity which is utilised.

The HSE estimates that the cost could be €0.3m- €0.7m per week – approximately €10 million – €20 million until the end of the year for not utilising the full 100,000 testing capacity which is available.

Last week, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said testing capacity remains at 100,000 tests a week.  

“We are in a positive position of not needing the full capacity but that is what NPHET recommends we are able to scale up to,” he said.

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