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Deputy Michael McNamara.

Deputy McNamara requests Government to consider Covid-19 Antigen tests

AS the 14-day incidence of Covid-19 in Clare slumps to the lowest in the country, a local Dáil deputy has asked the government to consider using antigen testing to help curtail the spread of the virus during Christmas.

A few months ago, the 14-day incidence rate of the virus in Clare was the fourth highest in the country.

However, now the incidence has dropped from 32 per 100,000 on November 30 to 23.6%, which is the lowest in the country.

This is in sharp contrast to Limerick, which now has the sixth highest incidence rate of 128% while the rate in Tipperary is now far greater than Clare at 70%, just below the national average of 84.7%.

According to figures produced by the Health Protection Surveillance Centre, there were 28 new cases of Covid-19 in Clare, 251 in Limerick and 112 in Tipperary from December 1 to December 14.

On December 13, Limerick’s total number of cases stood at 3,021 almost double Clare’s total of 1,529, while Tipperary figure of 1,644 was also higher than the Banner County.

Deputy Michael McNamara believes mass screening using antigen testing could help to curtail the spread of Covid-19 during Christmas.

Acknowledging that some people may not take up antigen testing, Deputy McNamara said others would test themselves and may find they had the virus.

“A couple of weeks ago, the Taoiseach met with his fellow European leaders to discuss the role of antigen testing, pursuant to the commission’s proposal.

“Antigen testing is not a medical diagnosis and it is not an alternative to polymerase chain reaction, PCR, testing, but it does offer benefits, particularly in screening.

“Everybody is concerned, particularly the Chief Medical Officer, CMO, about the potential effects of people mixing this Christmas.

“Will the Taoiseach consider State provision of rapid antigen tests that people can carry out themselves in advance of Christmas? This would allow people to screen to see whether they pose a particular risk and, if they do, to take the required measures. It offers a huge possibility of reducing the spread of Covid-19 over the Christmas period,” he said.

Speaking in the Dáil, An Taoiseach Micheál Martin confirmed the HSE and the National Public Health Emergency Team, NPHET, have been in discussions regarding the application of antigen testing in the context of healthcare settings initially.

“The plan is to test it in those settings, not just in the case of mass outbreaks but more generally. There have been various reports on the issue by HIQA and others and the European Commission has provided very helpful guidance in this regard to member states.

“I appointed the CMO, Dr. Tony Holohan, to the platform of advisers to the European Commission President. Dr Holohan is well aware of what is happening across Europe and with the Commission proposals. Work is ongoing with a view to the application of the proposals and guidance from the Commission in an Irish setting,” he said.

Deputy McNamara said it is clear that NPHET are calling all the shots in relation to any medical decisions even though it is the Taoiseach who should be making these decisions.

“NPHET have made it clear all along that for whatever reason they don’t like antigen testing. There is very little interrogation of NPHET since the Special Covid-19 Committee was wrapped up,” he added.

Clare Covid-19 Local Electoral Area Figures

November 24 to December 7

Ennis Electoral Area

Confirmed Cases: Less than 5

14-day incidence rate: Less than 5

Population: 30,910

Kilrush Electoral Area

Confirmed Cases: Less than 5

14-day incidence rate: Less than 5

Population: 20,994

Ennistymon Electoral Area

Confirmed Cases: less than 5

14-day incidence rate: less than 5

Population: 16,408

Killaloe Electoral Area

Confirmed Cases: 16

14-day incidence rate: 79.6%

Population: 20,108

Shannon Electoral Area

Confirmed Cases: 15

14-day incidence rate: 49%

Population: 20,108

National rate 80.2%

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