HSE orders 15 million antigen tests amid relentless demand

The HSE has ordered an additional 15 million antigen tests in an effort to ensure a sufficient supply to meet the huge demand expected in the coming weeks.

Ore of 400,000 tests were sent to close contacts and symptomatic under-40s in the past week alone, while retailers admit they have to work “exceptionally hard” to maintain stock.

Supermarkets and chemists that sold the Genrui test kit have now had to seek out new suppliers after the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) said it was investigating complaints about the product’s false positives. Brand.

Teacher unions also warned that the provision of antigen testing to colleges would be “seriously delayed” in the absence of a central procurement process.

The use of antigen tests – previously dubbed “snake oil” by Professor Philip Nolan of Nphet – has now exceeded the capacity of PCR testing.

A spokesperson for the HSE said it currently has 5.8 million antigen tests to deliver and has ordered 15 million more for January and February. Kits containing five tests are sent to close contacts and symptomatic people who request them.

It comes as retailers say they are pushing to increase supply after a huge increase in sales in recent weeks. SuperValu said it “was experiencing significant demand” and had sold in a number of its stores.

“We will receive further deliveries to be made in the coming days,” a spokesperson told the Independent Irish.

Lidl previously sold the Genrui kit but changed supplier just before Christmas. The German supermarket chain started selling FlowFlex kits this week and also offers Boson testing.

“The demand for the kits is huge, but our team is working exceptionally hard to maintain the supply,” Lidl said.

Circle K garages had “no problems” with supply at the moment, a spokesperson confirmed.

The prices of the kits in supermarkets and pharmacies currently vary between 2 € and 6 € each.

With stores struggling to keep up with demand and free HSE test deliveries taking two to three business days, some have started sourcing kits elsewhere.

Indeed, hundreds of people sell test kits on resale websites like Done Deal and Adverts.ie.

Multipacks of 10 were sold for up to € 60, while some sellers advertised individual kits for € 20.

With the HSE distributing hundreds of thousands of tests, the actual number of people undertaking antigen testing is likely to be much higher.

By comparison, just over 280,000 PCR tests were performed last week.

The weekly distribution capacity for HSE antigen tests is now 1.75 million, with plans to increase it to 2.5 million tests per week.

The daily average of tests provided over the past seven days for close contacts, groups of infants and elementary school children, and symptomatic children aged 4 to 39 is 62,466.

As of January 3, people aged four to 39 must get a positive antigen test before requesting a PCR test. This has led to an increase in the demand for test kits. The change was made in an effort to combat the Omicron surge, in which the number of daily cases exceeds 20,000.

Gerald Barry, assistant professor of virology at University College Dublin, said the HSE should provide “the whole country with antigen testing.” He added: “The idea that our public health system relies on Lidl, Aldi and SuperValu to provide medical grade equipment seems a bit crazy.”

Meanwhile, Dublin City University (DCU) said it will provide students with two free antigen tests per week when they return for in-person lectures on Monday.

However, Ireland’s teachers’ union said there were concerns about the availability of tests for colleges. He said while the € 9million fund announced by Higher Education Minister Simon Harris to purchase tests for the sector was welcome, delays in deliveries due to the lack of a procurement process were causing concerns.

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