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state warning Department of Health advises against using DIY supermarket Covid tests as they go on sale today

Lidl has started selling packs of antigen tests for €24.99

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Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan. Photo: Colin Keegan

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan. Photo: Colin Keegan

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan. Photo: Colin Keegan

Members of the public are not advised to carry out DIY home testing for Covid-19, the Department of Health has warned.

Approved rapid antigen tests can be bought in Lidl supermarkets from today.

The tests, in a pack of five for €25, can be used by people at home, work or other settings to see whether they have the virus, getting a quick result.

However, a spokeswoman for the Department of Health said it “does not currently recommend the use of rapid antigen tests for Covid-19 by the general public”.

The supermarket tests are cheaper than offers online that can cost around €50 for the same number of tests.

The test involves a person taking a swab from their nose and getting a result in around 15 minutes. However, it is not as reliable as the PCR test offered in HSE-run centres, which is free to people who are referred with symptoms.

The HSE is also operating a number of walk-in testing centres around the country, including in Donegal and Dublin, where people who do not have symptoms can get a free PCR test.

Lidl said yesterday it would limit purchases to five packs per customer and that it currently offered free antigen tests to its own staff.

Chief executive JP Scally said: “We are pleased to now add these to our range for our shoppers with hopes that they will offer some peace of mind as the country begins to reopen.”

The Department of Health is now following up on the recommendations of an expert group on antigen testing that led to a majority advocating they be used more widely in areas such as business, university and agriculture.

A number of pilots are under way and Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said the tests had an important role but there was a need for the public to be educated on what they measured and the implications of getting a false result.

It comes as eight more Covid-related deaths, among people aged 57 to 97, were reported yesterday and 393 new cases were diagnosed.

But with around 30pc of people vaccinated, the country could start “planning our summer”, chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said.

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The number of people with Covid-19 infection in hospital continues to fall and went down to 131 yesterday, with 36 in intensive care. However, 16 people were admitted in the previous 24 hours.

Yesterday’s cases included 173 in Dublin, 42 in Cork, 34 in Kildare, 26 in Donegal and 15 in Meath, with the remaining 103 spread across 20 other counties.

Dr Holohan said: “We all want the easing of restrictions next week to be a significant turning point in this pandemic. We have worked so hard to reduce the spread of this disease. More than 30pc of adults have now been vaccinated with one dose of Covid-19 vaccine in Ireland and it is time to feel hopeful and to start planning our summer.

“The choices we make now are vital to minimise the incidence of Covid-19 throughout May and June. Prioritise being outside and avoid crowds. Know the symptoms – self-isolate immediately and phone your GP if you have them. By protecting yourself, you are protecting everyone you know from infection.”

HSE chief Paul Reid issued a particular warning to Leaving Cert students yesterday about the risks of get-togethers.

They could end up not being able to sit their exam if they got the virus, he said.

The average positivity rate for the virus is now at around 2.7pc.

However, it was as high as 7pc at a walk-in test centre in Castlerea in Roscommon.

It was 4.5pc at a test centre in Letterkenny in Donegal, with high levels in some parts of the county being monitored.

There has not been a new outbreak in a nursing home for three weeks.

Dr Colm Henry, chief clinical officer in the HSE, said the 14-day incidence per 100,000 of the virus was currently at 115, down from 1,492 in January.

He said the national policy now was that partners should be allowed to attend a 20-week scan with a pregnant woman and also be permitted to be present at the birth.

All maternity hospitals and clinics had been contacted about relaxing the rules, he added.

Ann O’Connor, chief operations officer of the HSE, said hospitals were seeing levels of attendance at A&Es that were comparable with the height of a flu season.

The number of people over 75 attending was particularly high, she told the HSE’s weekly briefing.

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