Antigen testing and public behaviour key in reducing Covid infections, Taoiseach says

Antigen testing and public behaviour key in reducing Covid infections, Taoiseach says

As well as increased antigen testing, Micheál Martin emphasised the importance of a booster vaccine campaign and reducing socialising as the key ways to curb the resurgent virus. Picture: Brian Lawless

Antigen testing, the booster campaign, and public behaviour are the three key elements the Government are now looking at to reduce Covid infections, the Taoiseach has said.

The Cabinet Covid subcommittee is meeting this evening to discuss the Nphet's most recent recommendations around the wider use of the Covid vaccine cert at the continuation of working from home where at all possible.

The Government is also expected to announce the subsidisation of antigen tests after tomorrow's full Cabinet meeting.

Speaking in Navan, Co Meath, Mr Martin said: "I believe in balance and believe in doing what's best, particularly to reduce the incidence of Covid-19 in our society and also, obviously then in terms of hospitalisation and ICU: 

There are three elements to that — the rollout of the booster campaign is an important element of it; the use of antigen testing more widely in society in addition to PCR is the second key element. Behavior is a key element — how we all behave, how we are socialising. Those are the three key elements. 

Asked about the extension of the use of Covid certs to gyms and hairdressers, Mr Martin said that Nphet had not recommended specific places and instead has only asked that the Government "give consideration to extending vaccination certs".

He added that in relation to the expanded use of antigen testing "we have to be practical, pragmatic, balanced and reasonable in terms of what works on the ground."

But Mr Martin said with numbers very high, people need to adjust their behaviour.

"It's not just about Christmas, it's about getting through this phase," he said when pressed about the possibility of a 'circuit-breaker' lockdown in the coming weeks.

It's about the impact on society, people's health and the health service. So I think we need to take it steady and step by step. 

While the Government now favours subsidies to make antigen tests more affordable, Mr Martin said there are "lessons to be learned" from how antigen tests were provided for free in the UK.

"The rollout of the booster program is important, and already the data back from our public health authorities is that in the over-80s age cohort, there is a declining incidence of the disease."

He added that there is "very positive" evidence from other countries that the third shot provides more immunity.

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