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HSE in talks with pharmacies about distributing antigen tests to the wider public

Ireland currently has over two million antigen tests in stock in the country.

Image: Alamy Stock Photo

THE IRISH PHARMACY UNION and the HSE have entered preliminary talks about the distribution of antigen tests to the wider public, The Journal understands.

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.

He said that antigen testing will be a “further weapon” in the Government’s armoury to deal with the current wave of Covid.

Yesterday, the first batches of antigen test kits arrived in post boxes around the country to those deemed close contacts. 

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.

Government sources state that the question being asked now is how to make antigen tests widely available to people and how to educate members of the public on how to use them.

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.

“These talks are at a very early stage,” said the statement.

The IPU went on to say:

“Antigen tests are now widely available in pharmacies across Ireland and have the potential to play a key role in the management of the pandemic in the coming months.

Community pharmacies are available, as they have been throughout the pandemic, to support any public health requirements including the distribution of antigen tests were that to be recommended and required.

“Antigen tests available in pharmacies complement existing measures and can provide added reassurance as society continues to reopen.”

Ireland currently has over two million antigen tests in stock in the country. The State has the ability to buy around 500,000 more per week.

It is understood that a significant amount of rapid tests have already been ordered.

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.

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

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There will be no requirement – legal or otherwise – to use antigen tests, however the public will be encouraged to use them if they are attending events such as a concert or sporting event, or any other gathering where they would feel better having taken a rapid test.

The Taoiseach said this week that a communications campaign around how to properly use antigen tests will be launched soon. 

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