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Antigen tests portal is ‘open to play acting’, says minister

Donnelly ‘relying on people to do the right thing’


Health Minister Stephen Donnelly. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins

The HSE portal allowing people to register their positive antigen tests will open today.

However, those who have contracted Covid-19 will still need to have proof of a positive laboratory test to get a recovery cert.

The system would be phased in during the day, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said, and positive antigen tests, as well as details of close contacts, could also be uploaded.

However, to get an EU Digital Covid Cert on the basis of recovery to use for indoor dining in pubs and restaurants, for cinemas and theatres or for international travel, people will still need to have a positive PCR or professional antigen test.

“For the purpose of a recovery certificate, it’s PCR or a professionally administered antigen test – the regulations are very clear. So it doesn’t assist people in that regard in any case,” said the HSE’s lead on testing and tracing, Damien McCallion.

He added that the purpose of uploading the positive antigen tests is so public health advice can be given to the person ill with Covid, identify their close contacts and not for “any other purpose”.

“This is primarily for public health purposes,” Mr McCallion said.

He added that there were “limited safeguards” that could be put in place.

The clarification comes after it was announced that boosted close contacts will not have to restrict their movements from today. 

The Government moved last month to issue free antigen tests for people aged below 40 with symptoms amid pressures on the PCR testing system over the festive period.

HSE chief Paul Reid said it would be preferable that people’s “hearts and minds” were won over when persuading them to get vaccinated.

“We haven’t seen any major misuse up to date,” he said.

However, a positive antigen test will still be required for workers to be able to claim sick pay.

Mr Donnelly admitted people will be able to register fake positive antigen tests through the portal and that there could be “play acting”.

“We are relying on people doing the right thing,” he told reporters at the new RDS vaccination centre.

“Is it open to a bit of play acting? It is, but I have no doubt, and certainly, I was talking to the HSE team this morning on it, they’ve reported that that has been the case and it is being used very responsibly by people.”

Sinn Féin TD David Cullinane said that if the Government had introduced a portal to register positive antigen tests months ago, a verification system might already be in place that would avoid fake positive antigen tests being registered.

“We have to trust people and there is an element of self-testing. The vast, vast majority of people will be responsible,” he said.

“The problem for the Government is that they’re coming at antigen testing as an issue of necessity as opposed to out of planning, because the PCR testing system is overwhelmed.

“Now they’re playing catch-up and setting up systems at the last minute. For me, that’s where the failure is.”

Mr Donnelly also said “quite a lot of people” had still to get to get their booster as new rules for boosted close contacts kick in.

He said he hoped not everybody would contract Covid-19.

“Probably about 500,000 people a week are getting Omicron, so it’s not a contained virus,” he said.

“If about half-a-million people are getting it a week at the moment, certainly a lot of people in the country will have had it at this point,” he said.

The minister added that Nphet had suggested that due to a very high number of cases being missed and not reported, the peak of the Omicron virus may pass without being picked up.

“We’ll know afterwards, because there’s so many cases that we’re not recording,” he said.

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