Following the publication of the Expert Report on Covid-19 Rapid Testing, the immediate introduction of its recommendations across Irish society is being called for.

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly published the report recently, which recommends the introduction of rapid tests to complement existing national polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing programmes.

Fine Gael Senator Regina Doherty said the rollout of rapid antigen testing “would benefit workplaces, schools, the health service, sport and sectors such as hospitality and aviation as they begin to reopen”.

“The endorsement of rapid antigen Covid testing is a hugely welcome one and is another tool and support measure that can and should be used against the spread of this awful disease,” the senator said.

“The support of rapid testing has now been signed off by the majority of the experts on the panel, and this should be enough to begin an immediate rollout.”

Recommendations on Covid-19 rapid testing for meat plants

The report recommends that the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) and relevant employers should deploy serial rapid testing in high-risk employment situations including meat processing plants, “building on the pilots already established by DAFM and the HSE”.

Senator Doherty said that the “large pilot on rapid testing” in meat processing plants currently taking place is administering “more than 20,000 tests a week”.

Currently in Ireland, testing of asymptomatic individuals in the community is only conducted under specific situations, including in contact tracing or limited targeted testing in nursing homes.

In addition, pilots are being conducted in certain community settings, which includes meat processing plants.

“As asymptomatic infection is more likely in the young (18-40 years), we may be missing a high proportion of such asymptomatic individuals who have been identified as key contributors to early re-emergence of waves of infections,” the report states.

The report added that outbreaks of Covid-19 in meat plants have occurred throughout the pandemic in Ireland and internationally, “presenting threats to wider society”.

“This has been linked to the unique working conditions, although research to understand this more completely is ongoing.”