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new measures Taoiseach Micheál Martin says antigen testing will be used in primary schools

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said at the weekend that rapid testing of close contacts in primary schools could be introduced before Christmas.

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Taoiseach Micheal Martin

Taoiseach Micheal Martin

Taoiseach Micheal Martin

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has confirmed that antigen testing is to be carried out in schools.

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said at the weekend that rapid testing of close contacts in primary schools could be introduced before Christmas.

Micheal Martin said on Monday that he has spoken with the chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan about the measure, who has been sceptical about their use in the past.

Mr Martin said: “In terms of the contact tracing, there will be utilisation of antigen in given areas within schools, in line with advice from public health.

“Public health has been very consistent in relation to schools and advice to schools.

“And we’ll continue to keep the matter on the review.”

Mr Martin said the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) had advised that antigen testing may be used in “specific circumstances within schools”.

However he said public health experts are more concerned about the impact other respiratory illnesses, such as RSV and bronchiolitis, are having on children than Covid-19.

He said: “The real message from public health has been RSV, actually, and non-Covid respiratory illnesses are more of a problem for children right now, in respect of admissions to hospitals.

“And so the basic advice has been that anybody who’s symptomatic in any way in terms of respiratory illness should not go to school.

“That’s been consistent over the last month to six weeks in terms of RSV, which is a particular respiratory virus and others.

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“The same issue has not applied to Covid in respect of children getting severely ill or going to hospital.

“It’s RSV and other issues, bronchiolitis, that have proven to be more problematic this year.”

The Taoiseach has also called for “maximum compliance” with the vaccine certificate requirement for indoor hospitality.

It comes after ESRI research found that the number of outlets not asking customers for Covid-19 certification had almost doubled in a month.

The research, published last week, found that 37% of indoor diners in pubs said they were not asked for certification, compared with 21% the previous month.

For restaurants, 34% of diners said they were not asked for their Digital Covid Cert.

Officials from the Department of the Taoiseach are meeting with stakeholders from the sector on Monday.

“The bottom line is, and the broader picture is that we want to see maximum compliance with existing guidance and existing regulations, particularly in terms of the vaccine certificate” Mr Martin said.

Minister Donnelly had earlier called for “rapid sanctions” for pubs and restaurants that fail to check vaccine passes.

But the Taoiseach said on Monday he wanted a “constructive” engagement with the sector.

“The engagement up to know with many sectors, including hospitality, has been of a constructive nature.

“This will be a constructive engagement,” he said.

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