Calls grow for bigger Covid-19 antigen test to suppress summer surge – The Irish Times

There have been growing calls for increased support for antigen testing in response to the rising number of Covid-19 infections and the growing number of people with the virus in hospital.

The increase in cases is attributed to the BA. 4 and BA. 5 variants that spread faster due to their ability to evade immunity from previous infection or vaccination.

The number of people with Covid-19 in hospital rose to 574 on Sunday, from 537 the day before and 360 a week earlier, although a proportion of Covid-19 cases in hospital are incidental, which means the patients were admitted for another condition and tested positive in hospital.

Kingston Mills, professor of experimental immunology at Trinity College Dublin, said people should be encouraged to get rapid antigen tests again if they have symptoms and self-isolate if necessary, but he doesn’t think that there is a need to return to mass PCR testing. .

“The numbers have increased dramatically and that is worrying. A week ago I didn’t think there would be another serious surge, but I’m not so sure now,” he said.

Professor Mills said the government should consider subsidizing antigen testing to encourage more people to get tested, even if the cost of testing has come down.

“If you have a family of five or six and they want to test over multiple days, I guess it adds up and if it was free or subsidized, that would encourage people to do it,” he said. he declares.

Scientists have called for an increased state response to the growing number of infections.

Christine Loscher, professor of immunology at Dublin City University, said providing free antigen tests would encourage more people to test themselves and report positive tests.

“It’s hard for people to monitor. Usually, when you reported a positive antigen test, you were able to get a supply of antigen tests for other people in your household. You can’t get that anymore,” Prof Loscher told RTE Radio over the weekend.

On Sunday, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly raised the possibility of mandatory mask-wearing being reintroduced on public transport and in shops to quell a summer surge.

The requirement to wear masks on public transport and in shops and other indoor public spaces expired in February, although masks are still advised on public transport and in hospitals.

Prof Mills said he felt mask-wearing had been abandoned too quickly and that older and vulnerable people with underlying medical conditions should be encouraged to wear masks.

However, he said the masks only really worked effectively if everyone wore them.

“It’s either hit or miss for him to be very effective; Everybody must. It is not ideal for people who want to protect themselves that they or they just wear masks,” he said.

“I don’t think we’re at the stage yet where we should go back to wearing masks.”

The care home sector rejected the Taoiseach’s suggestion that outbreaks of Covid-19 in care homes were causing significant delays in discharge of patients from hospitals, which in turn put pressure on care services. hospital emergencies.

Tadhg Daly, chief executive of Nursing Home Ireland, which represents operators of private care homes, said while care homes were experiencing an increase in Covid-19 cases and outbreaks, it did not reduce widespread capacity in the sector.

“I would be confident there would be adequate capacity there, but maybe not in all places,” he said.

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