Wednesday, 20 January 2021

Questions (514)

John Brady

Question:

514. Deputy John Brady asked the Minister for Health if his attention has been drawn to reports that a number of private companies under HSE contracts are administering the home testing kits SARS-CoV-2 rapid antigen test in order to circumvent self-isolation periods for staff; if guidelines have been issued for such testing; if the efficacy of this testing process been established; the criteria and-or training for the administration of the tests; if it is deemed acceptable to use the testing kits in places of employment to eliminate isolation periods in which persons have been identified as close contacts or are showing symptoms of Covid-19; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2423/21]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

There are clear guidelines, available on the HSE website at www.hse.ie and that have been communicated widely by the Department of Health, the HSE, in advertising, in the media and elsewhere, relating to what people should do if they have symptoms of COVID-19 or if they are close contacts of confirmed cases.

The public health advice is that anybody who is showing symptoms of COVID-19 should contact their GP for an assessment and referral for a test should the GP determine it is necessary. Anybody in this situation should behave as if they have the virus. People awaiting a test or waiting for the results of a test should self-isolate.

Persons who are close contacts of a confirmed case should restrict their movements for 14 days. A test, regardless of the result, does not change this guidance.

The guidance also describes the circumstances in which people can stop self-isolating. For a confirmed case, this is when you have had no fever for 5 days and it has been 10 days since you first developed symptoms. If you are a close contact and do not have any symptoms, you should continue to restrict your movements for 14 days. Do this from the last date you were in contact with the person who tested positive for COVID-19. If you’re not sure when that was, restrict your movements until the date you were told by the contact tracing team.

It is important to note that testing for Covid-19 only provides a point-in-time result. It confers no guarantee that an individual with a 'not detected' result is not incubating the infection or the level of virus was below detectable levels at the time of the test. This is why a test result does not change the guidance.

The HSE only accepts PCR tests for diagnosing COVID-19. This is the most reliable way of testing.