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Leah Farrell
chief medical officer

'Only consider using an antigen test if you have no Covid symptoms', Holohan urges

Cabinet is widely expected to sign off on plans to subsidise antigen tests on Tuesday.

LAST UPDATE | 21 Nov 2021

THE CHIEF MEDICAL officer has urged people with symptoms of Covid-19 not to take antigen tests.

Anyone with symptoms of the virus should instead isolate and book a PCR test online or through their GP, Dr Tony Holohan has said in a statement this morning.

His warning comes ahead of a Cabinet meeting next Tuesday, at which ministers are widely expected to sign off on plans to subsidise antigen tests.

But in his statement, the chief medical officer said, “A ‘negative’ antigen test result does not mean that you don’t have Covid-19 and you will still need to continue isolating and get a PCR test.”

“Unfortunately, our data suggests that the majority of people who are using antigen tests at present are symptomatic and that of those, the majority who get a ‘negative’ result are incorrectly assuming that this means they no longer have to self-isolate or get a PCR test – potentially placing many others at risk of Covid-19.”

He added, “You should only consider using an antigen test if you have NO symptoms of the disease and only as a further additional tool, along with all of the other public health measures, to effectively combat Covid-19.

“If this antigen test is ‘positive’ then you need to self-isolate and arrange a PCR test. If the antigen test is ‘negative’, you may still have the virus, and, therefore, you should continue to adhere to all other public health measures.”

Yesterday, RTÉ reported that Holohan had written to ministers last week, re-stating his belief that self-administered antigen tests could be used incorrectly, fueling a rise in virus cases.

On Saturday, public health officials confirmed 5,959 new cases of Covid-19 in Ireland. As of 8am yesterday, there were 640 Covid-19 patients in hospital, of whom 121 were receiving intensive care.

In his statement this morning, Holohan said the current level of Covid-19 in Ireland “is placing an enormous burden on our entire health system, from public health to general practice to our acute hospitals”.

Holohan said, “We are all, understandably, very tired of this pandemic.”

However, he added, “At high levels of transmission, we are very vulnerable to sudden, unsustainable surges of infection, such as we are seeing at the moment.

“It is for this reason that we must now ask people to continue to heed public health messages. We know that this call is more difficult to respond to now than at any time previously.”

He urged the public to follow the five main actions to reduce risk:

  1. If you have cold or ‘flu symptoms isolate immediately and get a PCR test, not an antigen test
  2. Prioritise who you need to meet
  3. Meet others outdoors and open windows when indoors
  4. Wear a mask
  5. Use the right test and understand what the test result means.

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