Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan urged the Government not to provide subsidised antigen tests after the Cabinet had decided to proceed with the plan, warning the move could lead to an increase, rather than a decrease, in Covid-19 cases.
However, according to The Irish Times, the Government is expected to ignore his warnings and move ahead with the plan next week.
Dr Holohan wrote to the Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly, on Wednesday warning the Government would be wrong to go ahead with plans to subsidise the tests.
He suggested the tests could be used incorrectly by people and result in more instead of fewer cases.
Dr Holohan’s letter, which has been widely circulated among senior Ministers and officials, was sent after a decision at Monday night’s Cabinet sub-committee meeting – at which he was present – to make the provision of subsidised antigen tests a key element of the State’s response to the fourth wave of Covid.
Dr Holohan has long been a critic of antigen tests, warning repeatedly of the danger they could be misused and give people false security.
In his letter, he cited research he said showed the danger of people using the tests incorrectly, and said this risked promoting infection rather than reducing case numbers.
The Government is expected to approve the plan to provide subsidised antigen tests at Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting. There is also a plan to provide free antigen tests for use in schools from Monday, November 29th.
Meanwhile, there is early optimism among officials that changes to public health advice and curbs introduced this week are being taken on board by the public.
Models of the disease are being run again to take account of an increase in public caution and a reduction in contacts.
But with significant uncertainty, official and political sources told The Irish Times there is still a chance of additional public health measures being recommended if the situation worsens markedly.