Health minister appeals for people not to 'play-act' with new antigen test portal

Health minister appeals for people not to 'play-act' with new antigen test portal

Antigen tests have now become a widespread form of testing for Covid-19. File Picture: Brian Lawless

The health minister has asked people not to "play-act" with a new online portal that will allow the public to upload a positive antigen test from today.

The HSE's online portal will now allow people to directly upload their close contacts if they have tested positive on an antigen test. Previously only those with a positive PCR test could do this.

Speaking outside a vaccination centre in Dublin's RDS, Stephen Donnelly said: “I think like most things in this pandemic, we are relying on people doing the right thing. 

I think over the last two years what we’ve seen time and time again, people have continually done the right thing. Is it open to a bit of play-acting? It is.”

He said when people upload their details to the portal, their close contacts will then get contacted in the same way as happens at the moment for the PCR system.

Striking an optimistic note, Mr Donnelly said he is encouraged by the fact that intensive care unit (ICU) numbers have remained relatively stable through the Omicron wave.

“The hospital figures — certainly the critical care figures — are very stable," he said. "We do have to be conscious, of course, of the additional workload on the nurses, on the doctors, and on the entire hospital system with these extra thousand patients in there.

I was talking to some of our intensive care people this morning, and they were reporting that the numbers are still steady and they are not seeing anything in the pre-intensive care hospital patients or the non-intensive care patients that would suggest that those numbers are going to start rising quickly in the coming days. 

"So again, very positive stuff.”

He added that the numbers of incidental Covid cases in hospital — that is people who are being treated for other health issues but who also have Covid — has fluctuated from between 10% and 24%.

Asked about whether we are now close to the peak, Mr Donnelly said: “Probably about 500,000 people a week are getting Omicron, so it’s not a contained virus.

“If about half a million people are getting it a week at the moment, certainly a lot of people in the country will have had it at this point.”

'We are relying on people doing the right thing,' says Health Minister Stephen Donnelly. Picture: Gareth Chaney/Collins
'We are relying on people doing the right thing,' says Health Minister Stephen Donnelly. Picture: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Pointing to modelling being carried out by Professor Phillip Nolan and his team at Nphet's Irish Epidemiological Modelling Advisory Group, he said we may in fact have to go past the peak before we know that we have reached it.

"On the basis that there are a lot more cases out there than we are recording ... we could actually have passed the peak before it has been picked up on," he said.

We’ll know afterwards, because there’s so many cases that we’re not recording.”

However, Mr Donnelly cautioned that a “very high” number of people would have to be infected or have been boosted to reach herd immunity.

“The more contagious these things are, the higher the number of people you need [with] either vaccine immunity or natural immunity,” he said. 

"I would imagine, given the extraordinarily contagious nature of Omicron, that the number would be very high."

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From florist to fraudster, leaving a trail of destruction from North Cork, to Waterford, to Clare, to Wexford and through the midlands ... learn how mistress of re-invention, Catherine O'Brien, scammed her way around rural Ireland.

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