Written answers

Wednesday, 2 March 2022

Photo of Patricia RyanPatricia Ryan (Kildare South, Sinn Fein)
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197. To ask the Minister for Health if he will make low-cost PCR tests widely available in view of the decision to wind down testing centres; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11911/22]

Photo of Stephen DonnellyStephen Donnelly (Wicklow, Fianna Fail)
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From 28 February 2022, testing for SARS-Cov-2 will progressively move from extensive case finding and tracing of infection to reduce transmission, towards a focus on mitigation of the severe impacts of COVID-19 for those most vulnerable to the severe effects of the disease and those with risk factors for severe disease who may benefit from specific interventions. This decision is facilitated by the high level of vaccine-induced and naturally acquired population immunity in Ireland which is mitigating against the worst impacts of infection.

It is important to point out that anyone who has symptoms of COVID-19 or other viral respiratory tract infection should immediately self-isolate and continue to do so until 48 hours after symptoms have substantially or fully resolved.

Testing for public health purposes is now advised for those most vulnerable to the effects of the disease. This includes those aged 55 years and older who have not received a booster vaccination, those with a high-risk medical condition, who are immunocompromised, who live in the same household as a person who is immunocompromised, who provide care or support for a person they know to be immunocompromised and those who are pregnant. Antigen testing will be recommended for use by asymptomatic healthcare workers identified as close contacts, and to facilitate social welfare claims related to a person’s absence from work. The HSE will continue to maintain access to swabbing for PCR tests at test centres around the country during this transition phase. There continues to be no cost for access to tests provided for public health purposes by the HSE.

Individuals who are concerned about an underlying condition and/or their level of risk in relation to COVID-19 should continue to seek advice from their GP or treating clinician.

The approach to public health management of the pandemic, including changes to testing, tracing and surveillance management will remain under continuing review under the guidance of the Office of the Chief Medical Officer and will be subject to the evolving epidemiological situation, the impact of the disease on healthcare utilisation and outcomes, the vaccination status of the population, European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) guidance and other international evidence and guidance.


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