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Thurles Covid test agent sells 40,000 kits to Irish companies


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A new Thurles-based company that is distributing a rapid antigen test for Covid-19 has sold more than 40,000 of the tests to Irish companies - including Renault Trucks - and professionals such as dentists, opticians and veterinarians since launching in the Irish market at the start of December.

CoviSal was set up by Arthur Griffin, who is managing director of the Cork-based Berkley Group, one of the country's biggest recruiters for the pharmaceutical and life sciences industry. He led an MBO of Berkley in 2017. Griffin founded CoviSal with Killian Dunphy from KD Surgical, a supplier of surgical products to hospitals.

CoviSal secured the exclusive distribution rights for the tests from Dutch manufacturer Romed Holland. They are used by Lufthansa and Alitalia as well as throughout Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands.

The Irish company is in talks to distribute the tests in the UK, at an Irish private hospital, and to members of the Restaurant Association of Ireland and the Irish Hotels Federation.

Antigen tests are much faster and cheaper than the laboratory-based gold-standard diagnostic tests that detect viral RNA using a technique called the polymerase chain reaction (PCR). But they will only give a positive result when a person is at their most infectious. The Romed Rapid Antigen Test used by CoviSal is akin to a pregnancy test in that it can be self-administered and can deliver a result within minutes. The test, which claims to have an efficacy rate of between 96pc and 98pc, is selling for €220 for a box of 20.

Griffin says regular and widespread use of CoviSal's tests could help with the safe re-opening of Ireland's economy and society.

Under a revised Living with Covid plan being examined by the Government, the Level 5 lockdown restrictions are set to be extended until at least April 12.

"This will not reduce Covid to zero but it would help significantly in reducing the spread of the virus," Griffin says. "What else are we going to do - reopen again, have everyone infected again and have a fourth wave?

"The Government, in terms of looking at reopening the country, should look at this as a significant part of its strategy. It could even give companies a tax credit for testing their employees."

Last month, the use of rapid antigen tests was cleared for use in certain hospital settings and 500,000 testing kits have been ordered by the Health Service Executive.

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly has said an independent expert group has been set up to see if it can be used more widely in schools and workplaces. Last week, a group of senior medics criticised the "lack of urgency" being shown by the National Public Health Emergency Team towards antigen testing.

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