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Government dropping plans for antigen test subsidy, says health minister

The Irish Government has dropped plans to provide cheaper antigen tests, Stephen Donnelly has said.

The Health Minister said on Monday that the price of antigen tests has now fallen in shops and supermarkets to a more affordable level.

It had been widely anticipated that the Government would bring forward plans to subsidise the rapid tests, amid concerns about the prohibitive cost of antigen testing.

“It’s quite good news. It very quickly became unnecessary,” Mr Donnelly said.

“So what was important to me was three things on antigen testing – that they were being widely used, that they’re being properly used and that they’re affordable.

“And my concern was that at eight euro a test, which is broadly what they had been retailing at, for far too many people that’s simply not affordable.

“But since we have been looking at the subsidisation, the prices have fallen.”

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly (Brian Lawless/PA)

He said that some prices had fallen as low as 1.50 euro for an antigen test.

“We have managed to achieve the price reduction without having to get into spending taxpayers’ money on a subsidisation,” the health minister said.

“The market has done it itself. It’s happened without having to spend taxpayers’ money on us. So it’s been a good result.”

Mr Donnelly said that cheaper antigen tests were now “widespread” and that supermarkets were selling the tests for around four euro.

He indicated that this was approximately the price that the Government would have hoped to reach through a subsidisation plan.

Good value was “widespread”

The health minister said that antigen tests were becoming a key part of the country’s fight against the virus.

“The information we have is that about one in five people in the country are using them every week. So they are now a staple of our response to Covid ” he told RTE radio.

“The public health advice is use them when you are not symptomatic. Use them if you are going to be engaging in higher risk activities, as an additional test.”