Free antigen testing will be available for Leinster House staff instead of teachers and children next week.

The tests will be available free of charge to staff working at Leinster House from next week, but that does not include TDs and Senators.

Gary Gannon criticized the government for prioritizing its staff over schools for antigen testing.

The Social Democrats spokesperson for education said: “It is incredible that arrangements for antigen testing are put in place … before teachers and children in primary schools.”

The government has said throughout the week that antigen testing will be subsidized but will not be free for the Irish public.

Mr Gannon said the government had promised to put in place an antigen testing system in schools for months, but details are yet to be announced on any proposed program.

Antigen testing could be used for elementary and secondary school students

“Speaking during the week, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly declined to give any indication of when this program would be likely to be rolled out,” he continued.

“Schools are under great pressure from the current onslaught of Covid cases and testing is desperately needed to identify cases and suppress transmission. “

Dublin Central TD wants the government to prioritize sectors most vulnerable to the spread of Covid, particularly education, where 500,000 unvaccinated primary school students attend classes.

He said: “Meanwhile, a proposed grant program, for antigen testing for the wider community, has not yet been announced either.

“This means that the cost of antigen testing is prohibitive for many who would otherwise use it.

“The use of antigen testing, across society, is a critical part of our response to Covid.

“The government must prioritize sectors most vulnerable to the spread – especially education, where 500,000 unvaccinated primary school children are crammed into some of the most crowded classrooms in the EU.

“” It would be much simpler and much less complicated if families, once informed that their child is a close contact, could simply take antigen tests at school. Alternatively, parents might have the option of collecting free antigen tests at local chemists.

“Allowing parents to take the tests immediately – means that the tests can be administered quickly and then, if necessary, at regular intervals for the recommended period of time after exposure.”

“Antigen testing for the wider community also needs to be made much more accessible. Free antigen testing, as we try to fight this latest wave, is a smart approach. A subsidized system, which will take time to organize, could then be set up and deployed in the new year.

“A delayed antigen testing program in schools and the failure to deploy widely accessible tests for the wider community are hampering our ability to identify cases and flatten the curve. “

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