NPHET chief Tony Holohan has warned that anyone with Covid-19 symptoms should not take an antigen test but instead book a PCR test online.
In a strongly worded statement, the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) once again outlined how PCR testing was preferable to antigen, which is less scientifically reliable.
Mr Holohan said antigen tests should only be used when a person has no symptoms. His comments come against a backdrop of many people being unable in parts of the country to book PCR tests online for several days due to high demand.
“If you have symptoms of COVID-19 you should isolate and book a PCR test online or contact your GP. You should NOT take an antigen test; a ‘negative’ antigen test result does not mean that you don’t have COVID-19 and you will still need to continue isolating and get a PCR test. Unfortunately, our data suggests that the majority of people who are using antigen tests at present are symptomatic and that of those, the majority who get a ‘negative’ result are incorrectly assuming that this means they no longer have to self-isolate or get a PCR test – potentially placing many others at risk of COVID-19.”
Dr Holohan continued: “You should only consider using an antigen test if you have NO symptoms of the disease and only as a further additional tool, along with all of the other public health measures, to effectively combat COVID-19. If this antigen test is ‘positive’ then you need to self-isolate and arrange a PCR test. If the antigen test is ‘negative’, you may still have the virus, and, therefore, you should continue to adhere to all other public health measures.”
The heath chief said he understood that the general public was “very tired of the pandemic” but that there was still time to tackle the fourth wave of the virus currently sweeping the county.
“We are all, understandably, very tired of this pandemic. Time and again we have asked the Irish people to take on board public health messaging and act for the collective good. And time and again the vast majority have listened to that message and responded. Through small but vital individual and collective actions we can turn this around.”
Dr Holohan also stressed that it was “really important” that anyone called for their booster shot should come forward for it straight away.
“At high levels of transmission, we are very vulnerable to sudden, unsustainable surges of infection, such as we are seeing at the moment. It is for this reason that we must now ask people to continue to heed public health messages. We know that this call is more difficult to respond to now than at any time previously,” he added.
While the majority of restrictions have now been lifted in society, the CMO advised that everyone be cautious of the high level of disease circulating. He also explained that the high infection rates at present was putting considerable strain on the public health system.
“The current level of COVID-19 in Ireland is having a negative impact on the health of the people of Ireland and placing an enormous burden on our entire health system, from public health to general practice to our acute hospitals. Non-COVID care – including cancer surgery, cardiac care, hip and knee replacements, mental ill-health and all of the common ailments that, if identified and treated promptly, may be prevented from deteriorating further – continues to be severely impacted.”
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