Delays to pilot study of Covid-19 antigen testing and a copy of a report into the scheme

Rollout of a Covid-19 antigen test pilot scheme took almost four months amid concerns over liability if something went wrong and the cost of a wider testing programme.

The Department of Children raised multiple issues over plans for rapid testing in childcare and educational settings wondering if the initial pilot test was of too small a scale to even be useful.

In a briefing for Minister Roderic O’Gorman, officials also queried how affordable a major testing scheme would be with around 30,000 people in childcare to be tested twice every week.

It said: “If the approach were to be rolled out nationally, the potential cost of the test kits alone is up to €240,000 per week.”

Testing ended up taking place across fourteen sites in higher education and early learning and childcare from late July to mid-September in 2021.

A copy of the report explained how 225 participants were asked to take two tests per week at home for four weeks, prior to attending work or college.

Over eight weeks of testing, 1,595 antigen tests were completed with two positive results, both of which were later confirmed through PCR testing.

According to the report, participants felt the regular antigen testing gave “peace of mind and feelings of safety and confidence”.

Most people who were signed up said they would be happy to continue with free antigen testing if it was available to them.

Others were reluctant to engage however, with some being nervous and uncomfortable about testing and others simply not wishing to get involved.

The report also cautioned that large scale rollout of antigen testing would require “significant planning and resources”.

Other pitfalls included the possibility of “dishonesty” when people were self-reporting results as well as the large amount of waste being created.

A copy of the Department of Children submission is below (including a number of other unrelated submissions on domestic violence and the children of Catholic priests):

And a copy of the report from the pilot study: