Lidl is selling antigen tests. What are they and are there limitations?

Here we answer some of the questions around antigen testing. 
Lidl is selling antigen tests. What are they and are there limitations?

One of the Boson Biotech Covid-19 antigen tests which have gone on sale in Lidl. Picture: Sam Boal / RollingNews.ie

Supermarket chain Lidl has begun selling Covid-19 antigen tests in Ireland.

What is an antigen test, and how is it different to other tests? 

What is an antigen test?

An antigen test is a test that doesn’t go to a lab to get the result.

The test uses a swab to take a sample from your nose.

In a healthcare setting, the test sample can be tested on site meaning the results are much quicker.

The test results are quicker than the Covid-19 PCR test, but it has some limitations.

What are the limitations?

No test is 100% accurate, and they all have some limitations, say the HSE.

The antigen test will find the virus in most people who have symptoms.

But in some cases, it may not pick up that you have the virus.

If your result is negative, it means that the virus was not found in your sample.

According to the HSE, at times an antigen test cannot provide a positive or negative result. This is called an ‘invalid result’.

In this case, a test has to be retaken.

What have the experts said?

While HSE chief Paul Reid did say that antigen testing has a role to play in the fight against Covid-19, he said PCR testing remains the gold standard.

Separately, Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan said Nphet has raised significant concerns about antigen testing, though.

Their use poses a “real risk” to the pandemic response because of the false reassurance an incorrect negative result could provide.

He said a typical accuracy rate of 50% would miss half the positive cases at a wedding or similar gathering, for example.

So what is a PCR test?

The PCR test is the most reliable type of Covid-19 test.

It looks at the genetic material of the virus and is done in a lab.

The HSE says it is a very reliable way of knowing if you are currently infected with Covid-19.

Can I get a test?

If you are classed as a close contact or you have symptoms, you will be offered a test from the HSE.

If you are a close contact, you will get a text message with a link to book a test online. If you do not book a test online, the contact tracing team will ring you to arrange one.

The HSE also has a number of walk-in test centres around the country, limited to one per person.

Private tests are also available at various locations around the country.

What’s the story with the Lidl tests?

Lidl announced this week that it will be being selling packs of antigen tests from today.

The packs of five tests will be available for €24.99.

“It is our hope that by offering these tests, they will add an extra level of reassurance to our customers as they follow that advice,” said JP Scally, CEO of Lidl Ireland and Northern Ireland.

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