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Antigen tests should be free to members of the public, says Mary Lou McDonald

The Journal reported this morning that the Irish Pharmacy Union and the HSE have entered preliminary talks about the distribution of antigen tests to the wider public.

Talks are underway to roll out antigen tests for the public through pharmacies.
Talks are underway to roll out antigen tests for the public through pharmacies.
Image: Alamy Stock Photo

ANTIGEN TESTS SHOULD be free to members of the public, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has said. 

The Journal reported this morning that the Irish Pharmacy Union and the HSE have entered preliminary talks about the distribution of antigen tests to the wider public.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said this week that he wants to “develop a culture of self-testing” which would mean regular testing by members of the public.

As the Government ramps up use of the rapid testing method, it is understood it is currently assessing how best to distribute antigen tests to the wider public.

While all options are understood to be under consideration, senior sources have said that supplying antigen tests to the public through pharmacies “is the way to go”.

In a statement to The Journal, the IPU confirmed that it has had “preliminary discussions” with the HSE regarding the role of pharmacies in antigen testing.

If such a system was rolled out in Ireland, it is not yet clear if the tests would be free of charge, with one government source stating that there could be a “nominal fee” for the items.

Speaking today at her party’s Ard Fhéis, McDonald said:

We have been talking about antigen tests for what seems like forever, so I think it is a good move that they are now rolling it out but I think to make it truly accessible I think it has to be free to people.

She said she absolutely accepts that antigen testing “is not a silver bullet”, stating it needs to be deployed in conjunction with other measures.

The UK model of self-testing is believed to be one that is being looked at by officials.

Rapid lateral flow test kits can be sent to your home in the UK if you order a test through the government’s website.

Members of the public can also pick up two packs of seven rapid tests from their local pharmacy.

By giving the pharmacy a ‘collect code’, a person can pick up the tests, the NHS website states.

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McDonald said in Northern Ireland, free antigen tests are sent to your home. 

“We could do worse than to mirror what is happening in the six counties,” she said.

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