Still no Rapid Tests
Here we are again. Tapping on the computer. Trying to maintain good posture and get our prescribed exercise and fretting at the six-one news and the R-number. It’s nearly 3 now. That means everyone who currently contracts COVID-19 infects nearly three other unsuspecting people. The treatment: lockdown numero 3! Positive news of vaccines is juxtaposed with the scary prospect of a mutant SARS-CoV-2—the so-called “UK variant”. And don’t forget the South African variant, that’s on the horizon too according to news reports. The testing capacity is saturated. And despite excellent Rapid Antigen Detection Tests being available here, and other countries embracing the tests that give accurate results in just a few minutes, Irish authorities are slow to adopt them.
Neil McDonnell, CEO at the Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association (ISME), wrote to the Taoiseach before Christmas urging him to consider the plight of business owners in Ireland. He expressed ISME’s dismay at the lack of an effective strategy in relation to businesses staying open safely when restrictions are lifted. “We are not managing Covid-19. Covid-19 is managing us”, says McDonnell. “Other countries have introduced significantly less costly testing methods with much faster results such as antigen testing, albeit with lower levels (still in excess of 90%) accuracy”, he adds.
Despite the ready availability of rapid accurate tests, the government has not validated all of the rapid antigen tests currently available in Ireland, although some studies are ongoing. Unfortunately, that means tests that are certified and independently validated elsewhere are not even been checked to see how good they are here.
Repeated calls from ISME to introduce daily rapid testing to allow workers return safely are justified. Of course such a strategy should only be introduced when the time is right; when the R number drops again, when the cases fall, when the hospitals are not bulging at the seams with sick COVID-19 patients. Timing is key. And now is the time to consider the measures that will really nip this awful virus in the bud. One thing is certain: we can’t keep doing the same thing and expect a different result. We must be open to new ways of living and working. It might just be a case of a swab a day keeps the doctor away. And given it will take several months before the majority of the population is vaccinated, keeping a fourth lockdown away is important for our health, both physical and mental.
Rapid Antigen Detection Tests (RADTs) such as DropTech are a bit like a pregnancy test. Easy to use and easy to read. Someone who has trained how to swab correctly (good swabbing is important) basically places the swab into the nose. The swabbing stick looks like a tiny chimney sweep, with a tiny brush at the tip. The swab goes back and back and back till it touches the back wall of the nasopharynx. The swabber rotates the swab so as to gather some secretions on the cells of the walls. This is uncomfortable, but only for about 5 seconds. Once the swab is removed, it’s inserted into a little tube of reagent or testing solution. It’s rotated around for 60 seconds and two drops are then placed in the testing cassette. A negative test shows as one (control) line whereas a positive test (SARS-CoV-2 antigen detected) shows as two lines. This takes only a few minutes.