A notification from Clare TD Michael McNamara on the colossal amount spent on PCR testing by the Irish State during the Covid crisis to November 2021 has been met with shock and disbelief.
“The unparalleled scale of PCR testing in Ireland – to the exclusion of antigen testing – has led to astronomical costs being incurred. Government must explain why we had so much, and such expensive, PCR testing and stalled antigen testing despite an expert report calling for it,” Deputy McNamara wrote on Twitter.
The unparalleled scale of PCR testing in Ireland – to the exclusion of antigen testing – has led to astronomical costs being incurred. Government must explain why we had so much, and such expensive, PCR testing and stalled antigen testing despite an expert report calling for it. pic.twitter.com/GmG6a9nv9A
— Michael McNamara TD (@MlMcNamaraTD) January 20, 2022
Figures released to the Independent TD showed that the spend on PCR testing includes a €453.3m payment to the National Virus Reference Laboratory. An additional spend of €55 million went on community testing.
Chair of the NPHET Coronavirus Expert Advisory Group, Dr Cillian de Gascún, is also a Director of the National Virus Reference Laboratory since 2013.
The overall spend on PCR testing for Covid -19 will be increased by a major uptick in testing during December and January during the Omicron surge.
Deputy McNamara told the Examiner that the estimated PCR testing costs will eventually exceed €1 billion. He queried why antigen testing was not more widely used.
The HSE has responded by saying that it needed to meet demand for testing as Covid surge.
The extent of the spend was met with disbelief on Twitter.
Cardiologist Rory O’Hanlon said he needed to pick his jaw up off the floor.
Just need to pick my jaw up off the floor
— Rory O' Hanlon (@ohanloncmr) January 20, 2022
Surgeon Turlough O’Donnell claimed that experts who advised the use of antigen tests were ignored throughout the crisis.
— Turlough O'Donnell (@TurloughDonnell) January 20, 2022
As observed by several commentators, a government established expert group issued a report in March 2021 where a majority agreed with increased use of antigen testing.
Antigen tests are much cheaper but may be less sensitive than PCR tests. They look for specific proteins made by Covid-19 while PCR tests look for the RNA of the virus.