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Costly antigen tests free a few miles up the road...


Covid antigen tests are availalbe free of charge to residents in Northern Ireland.

Covid antigen tests are availalbe free of charge to residents in Northern Ireland.

Covid antigen tests are availalbe free of charge to residents in Northern Ireland.


With everything that has been said and written about Covid-19 over the last nineteen months, there is something especially wrong about the blame seaping through.

It’s not just wrong, but sadly misplaced.

But it's exactly what we've witnessed in so many ways in the border region in particular, as counties on both sides have repeatedly reported among the highest number of Covid infections.

Blame has been heaped open those crossing the border to Newry or Dundalk almost since the beginning of the pandemic. The very fabric of everyday life in this area are the cross border workers, shoppers, students and yes the day-trippers, bargain-hunters and 'out for a night-ers' too.  But they were all part of the reason, we are led to believe, why Louth once again reported one of the highest rates of infection in the country last week.

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But behind all of the cheap rhetoric, there is one question which really needs to be asked.

Why are we responding to the worst health crisis in modern history with a fractured, delayed approach, with governments on both sides of the border implementing different measures , at different times, in piece meal ways that have served only to confuse people living in both parts of this small island?

The latest example of this is the planned introduction of antigen tests, a move initially welcomed amid the current surge in cases. That is, until the high cost of these lateral flow testing kits has been totted up.

The regular use of antigen tests will come at a cost to families, at €7 each or boxes of five for around €30. There are some being sent to close contacts of confirmed cases, but consistent use will become expensive, and likely out of reach for many hard pressed parents.

Just a few miles north of the border however, where lateral flow testing has been in operation for many months, people can receive two boxes of seven self-test kits for free from any pharmacy or from various locations in cities and towns.

Going for a PCR test will also enable you to ask for some home testing kits, all completely free. Many companies and businesses have also been asking their workers to regularly test themselves using antigen tests, all again supplied for free.

So, when we hear stories of people travelling north to pick up free testing kits donated by relatives and friends, who can really blame them?

The lack of any co-ordinated response to this pandemic by governments on both sides of the border is the only place where blame must rest.