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'Ball is in the Government's court'


Tech entrepreneur Pat Phelan.

Tech entrepreneur Pat Phelan.

Tech entrepreneur Pat Phelan.

A Cork businessman who has imported a consignment of rapid COVID-19 tests has told The Corkman that the Irish Government has not been in touch about the possibility of using the kits to support the easing of restrictions.

Pat Phelan - who founded the SISU aesthetic therapy firm which has clinics in Cork and Kerry, and has a track record in starting pioneering tech start ups - believes the COVID-19 test kits, which give a result within 15 minutes, could be used as part of a nationwide scheme to progress the country towards being virus free.

Pat, who took his latest test at the weekend - and tested negative - believes that testing everyone in the country at the same time on the same day with these testing kits, and inputting the results on an app or website, could give the Government the most accurate picture yet of how widespread the virus is in the country.

The tests, which are the only kits approved by the US Food and Drugs Administration, are already being used by Emirates Airline to test its passengers.

The tests cost approximately €10 each and Pat himself is not proposing this scheme for any personal advantage.

"It would cost about as much as one day's rental of the private hospitals," he said.

Having made the proposal a month ago, Pat has not had any contact from the Government which has come under fire for not meeting ambitious targets for testing and the ongoing lack of a contact tracing app.

"I didn't get any follow up or contact from the Government - I suppose the ball is in their court.

"I have been testing with these kits for a while now and whilst it's a non-clinical test it is an absolute indication and gives you a positive or negative, much like a pregnancy test from a very simple finger prick," he said.

"I'm not a doctor or anything like that, just an ordinary decent citizen looking for practical ways to help get Ireland going again."

His proposal - publicised in this newspaper - which he wants to spark a public discussion, is to send one of these tests to every citizen in the country over the next two weeks.

"They take their own test, the result is then entered into the contact-tracing mobile App.

"This means we could do this almost immediately and at relatively little cost. With the test we will be able to see where we really are, in real time, when combined with the contact tracing app being developed now," he said.

"This is doable within a couple of weeks."

Prominent TCD epidemiologist Professor Luke O'Neill has said the proposal was well worth considering.

However, he cautioned against viewing the test as a conclusive indicator to lift the current restrictions.

He said other measures would also have to be used before restrictions could be lifted.

"As long as the test is robust and well validated, why not?" he said.