Paschal Donohoe: Government not relying on market to make antigen tests affordable

Paschal Donohoe: Government not relying on market to make antigen tests affordable

The HSE has made free tests available to close contacts of positive cases and to those aged four to 39 who are symptomatic. Photo: Sam Boal / RollingNews.ie

The Government is not relying on the market to make antigen tests affordable, the Finance Minister has said.

Paschal Donohoe said changes to the system have ensured that those who need tests most urgently, can get them.

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly in November announced that plans to subsidise antigen testing had been set aside due to the market “doing that already”. Since then, the HSE has made free tests available to close contacts of positive cases and to those aged four to 39 who are symptomatic.

However, many people are still reporting high costs for the rapid self-tests, with families paying around €100 a week if they are using them daily. Mr Donohoe said the HSE changes are making tests available to people.

"We are not relying on the market to make them affordable," he told RTE radio. "We are also acknowledging that for those who have a medical need, who think they may have Covid, who are below a certain age, the HSE will make tests available to them."

The Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe also said Ireland will lose money when the OECD deal to raise global taxes on multinational companies to 15% kicks in. Photo: PA
The Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe also said Ireland will lose money when the OECD deal to raise global taxes on multinational companies to 15% kicks in. Photo: PA

He added that he accepts that those were "very specific uses" and that people have been using the tests to avoid spreading Covid-19 at social events and work, but said that "the State is not relying on the market" for all people. 

"Yes I accept there is a cost for adults who have to use them regularly. If we are going to intervene, we have to ensure that supply is available to meet the needs of those who will need them if the price is to come down any further."

The Finance Minister also said changes to close contact rules, which have seen some businesses complain of large numbers of staff being off sick, is a matter for Nphet.

Asked about the cost of living, Mr Donohoe said that the measures taken in last year's Budget would help families offset rising prices. He said the Government is not looking at changing tax rates based on Wednesday's tax take figures, which showed income tax €4bn above projections for 2021.

"We're not going to be making any changes to our tax rates beyond what we announced on Budget Day. It is the case that if you look at where we are with income tax, it's now worth €4bn versus where we were in 2020, which points to the importance of having two-and-a-half-million people at work."

He said the Government's €100 per household energy payment is currently being worked on and would assist families and homeowners in the coming weeks.

Corporation tax

Speaking about the upcoming change to corporation tax, Mr Donohoe said Ireland will lose money when the OECD deal to raise global taxes on multinational companies to 15% kicks in.

"If you look at where we are with this rate, overall, Ireland will lose money and nobody knows this better than me, because I've been so heavily involved in it. The first thing we will lose money from over time will be the full implementation of the global tax reform package. 

"Secondly, many of the large taxpayers are in a position of very high profitability due to other things that have happened in the global economy. And we cannot nor should we expect that to continue. So we will get to a point where our corporate tax revenue, and I've been saying this in particular since 2018, will come down. 

"If we were in a position where we didn't have a pandemic we would now be in a position in which our country would be running a budget surplus to act as an insurance policy for that."

He said that he expects the Budget later this year to set corporation tax at 15%.

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