Gary Gannon TD

If we are serious about suppressing the surge in covid, then we have to act fast

The failure to roll out antigen testing in primary schools for nearly another two weeks is deeply concerning while the scheme itself is unnecessarily bureaucratic, according to Social Democrats Education Spokesperson Gary Gannon.

“The Government has promised antigen testing in primary schools for months and Education Minister Norma Foley finally announced the nature of the scheme today – but then immediately clarified that it will not be operational for nearly another two weeks, on November 29.

“There are a number of concerning aspects to this. For a start, the scheme – antigen testing for children in pods if there is a confirmed positive case in the pod – seems an obvious approach. The length of time it has taken to confirm that this is what is being contemplated is therefore baffling.

“Secondly, the scheme seems unnecessarily bureaucratic. According to the Minister, a new HSE call centre is being set up and parents, if their child is a close contact of a confirmed case, will call this centre. The centre will then post antigen tests to families.

“It would be much simpler, and far less complicated, if families, once they were informed their child is a close contact, could simply pick up antigen tests at schools. This would negate the need to set up a call centre, which will inevitably experience a huge volume of calls whenever it is eventually operational. Alternatively, parents could be given the option of collecting free antigen tests at local chemists.

“If we are serious about suppressing the surge in covid, then we have to act fast and we must make testing as accessible as possible. Allowing parents pick up tests immediately – means the tests can be administered quickly and then, if required, at regular intervals for the recommended period of time after exposure.

“Antigen testing for the wider community also needs to be made much more accessible. Free antigen testing, while we try to tackle this latest surge, is a sensible approach. A subsidised scheme, which will take time to organise, could then be put together and rolled out in the new year.

“The most important lesson we have learned from covid is that speed trumps perfection when it comes to the State’s response. An overly bureaucratic and delayed scheme for antigen testing in schools, and the failure to roll out widespread accessible tests for the wider community, are hindering our ability to identify cases and flatten the curve.”

18 November, 2021


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