The building is on fire. We need to act now to put it out – not stand around and debate the cost of fire extinguishers.
The government’s failure to include the early learning and childcare sector in its plans for antigen testing is indicative of its lax approach to antigen testing generally, according to Social Democrats Spokesperson for Children Jennifer Whitmore.
“A pilot programme, on the use of antigen testing in the early learning and childcare sector, was carried out for staff in that sector, in August and early September – but workers are still none the wiser about when, or if, antigen testing is likely to be rolled out.
“The government has said it will introduce antigen testing in primary schools next week, on November 29. It remains to be seen whether this deadline will be met. However, there has been no information provided on an antigen testing programme in the early learning and childcare sector.
“This delay, and dearth of information, is indicative of the government’s lax approach to antigen testing generally. We are deep in a fourth wave of this virus and there is still no consensus in government on the use of antigen testing.
“Discussions currently are focused on trying to design a subsidy scheme, which is entirely misguided. The building is on fire. We need to act now to put it out – not stand around and debate the cost of fire extinguishers.
“We are in an emergency situation and the most important thing we need to do is identify cases and suppress transmission. Free antigen testing would help us to do that. Given the huge surge in cases, it would be destructive to our efforts to manage this crisis if cost were to be a barrier to antigen testing.
“The government, and Nphet, have been dismissive of the public’s ability to correctly use antigen tests, but people are not stupid. They have followed all of the public health advice to the best of their ability for nearly two years. The government should have issued public health messaging, on antigen testing, long ago. It needs to do so now – and give the public all the tools they need to suppress this wave.
“Now is not the right time for protracted debates on a subsidy – which, even after it is introduced, will still mean the cost of antigen testing remains prohibitive for many.
“When this surge has abated, we can then discuss a subsidy. But the situation is too grave now for any further indecision or delay.”
23 November, 2021