Eleven Irish hospitals now have no patients with Covid-19, HSE chief Paul Reid said today.
riting on Twitter, Mr Reid said there was further good news this morning.
“Eight adult hospitals now have zero Covid-19 inpatients (St James’s, Naas, Tullamore, Sligo, Galway, Kilkenny, Mercy, Waterford). Also the three Children’s Hospitals at Temple St, Crumlin & Tallaght. Great relief for patients, public and staff,” he said.
Earlier, Mr Reid described rapid antigen tests as “part of the soluation”. Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan and Nphet have stated a strong preference for PCR Covid-19 tests as opposed to rapid antigen tests, in particular for foreign travel.
Speaking today on Newstalk, Mr Reid said that it’s unfortunate that the debate has gotten so polarised, but that the HSE is clear on where they stand.
“Certainly from a HSE perspective we want to be facilitating, supporting and advising use of antigen testing by any sectors or any kind of industry. And that’s what we do,” he said on The Pat Kenny Show.
“So for example, from our perspective we will use antigen testing and have used antigen testing in some outbreaks in hospitals. We are working very closely with the third level sector… for pilots.
“And we have supported the Department of Agriculture – about 40,000 tests in meat plants in particular.”
He added that they will be publishing soon some of our validation assessments that they’ve done on a number of specific antigen tests to give the public more information.
“They are part of a solution, and all throughout Covid everybody is always trying to find a silver bullet. So we see them as part of the solution,” he said.
“But the one thing I will say is, the one thing we do also have, thankfully here in Ireland, a really strong capacity for PCR. So for example in an outbreak in a hospital, we have a very significant capacity to utilise PCR and a very quick turnaround on it. We will use antigen on some occasions, but we also have PCR as well.”
When Lidl first began to sell antigen tests, chairman of Nphet Professor Philip Nolan commented on it, saying: “Can I get some snake oil with that?”
“It makes for a great salad dressing with a pinch of salt and something acerbic. Stay safe when socialising outdoors over the next few weeks. Small numbers, distance, masks. These antigen tests will not keep you safe.”
Discussing Nphet in particular today, Mr Reid said: “I think in fairness to Nphet, their advice throughout the pandemic has been strong, consistent and it has got Ireland into a very strong position in our defence against Covid.
“I think we just have to take that into context. So to be fair, I think their advice has been quite solid, quite well-informed, quite evidence-based, and given good advice to the Government and indeed the HSE. But certainly on this one the debate does seem to be polarised and we all need to acknowledge a way through.”
He added that: “We have to caution against the wrong use of them [antigen tests], or people’s perception of what they might give us all a mandate to do.”