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This is a decision that makes no sense on either public health or financial grounds

The decision of the government to scrap a subsidy scheme for antigen tests is a serious dereliction of duty, according to Social Democrats Health Spokesperson Róisín Shortall.

“It beggars belief that Health Minister Stephen Donnelly would announce a U-turn of this scale, as an aside in a media interview, on RTE radio – after senior ministers spent weeks assuring people a subsidy scheme was nearing completion.

“The government has now washed its hands of any responsibility in the provision of antigen tests. Its latest stance means that it has no role in their pricing, availability, accessibility or quality control. This is a serious dereliction of duty as the government contemplates further restrictions to control the spread of covid in the community.

“At the start of the month, Nphet changed its advice on antigen tests and advised that anyone engaged in so-called risky activities – which can be summarised as, leaving your home to meet people indoors – should take two antigen tests per week.

“In recognition of the increased financial burden this places on households, particularly low income households, the government opted to provide a subsidy for antigen tests, rather than offer them free of charge.

“Now we learn that because antigen tests are available in certain retailers for approximately €3 or €4 a test, the government is scrapping its proposed subsidy. Apparently, it believes that this is an affordable price for households to absorb.

“This again shows how out of touch this government has become. It has no comprehension of the financial struggles that ordinary people in Ireland are enduring. Antigen tests that are €3 or €4 each may be affordable for government ministers, but they are priced out of reach of many low and middle income workers and families.

“We are in the midst of a huge cost-of-living crisis and the failure to make antigen tests genuinely affordable means that tens of thousands of people will not be able to use them. This means a vital tool, at our disposal to limit the spread of covid, will go unused.

“There is a strong argument to make antigen tests free, particularly for low-income and fixed-income households, while we try to suppress this latest wave of covid. Instead, the government has opted to deny these families even a paltry subsidy of these tests.

“In the context of the tens of billions that has already been spent by the government in its covid response, this is a decision that makes no sense on either public health or financial grounds.”

29 November, 2021


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