HSE antigen tests can now be used to qualify for Covid benefit

HSE antigen tests can now be used to qualify for Covid benefit

Applicants will no longer need a positive PCR Covid test to qualify for the €350 Enhanced Illness Benefit, under new changes announced by the social protection minister.

Heather Humphries this evening announced that her department will now accept a Health Service Executive (HSE) antigen test to qualify for the benefit, as well as a text message from the HSE that you are a close contact or a cert from your GP.

The PCR testing system has come under severe strain in recent days with some people having to wait a number of days before they can get an appointment for one, and then waiting for up to 72 hours for a result.

Ms Humphrey’s said her department has expanded the range of documentation people can use to apply to include:

  • Confirmation from the HSE that you have ordered an antigen test (system will be in place from Monday) 
  • Text message from the HSE that you are a close contact 
  • Certification from your GP that you have symptoms of Covid-19 and/or are a probable source of infection.

As has been the case to date, a positive PCR test result will also qualify for Enhanced Illness Benefit.

Announcing the changes, Minister Humphreys said this was an “anxious time” for families.

“Following discussions between my officials and the HSE, I have this evening introduced new flexibilities to enable customers easier access to Enhanced Illness Benefit,” she said.

“As a result of these changes, a person who applies for an antigen test from the HSE can use this proof of application to apply for Enhanced Illness Benefit for the days that they are out of work.

“It’s so important that anyone who receives a positive test or is displaying symptoms self-isolates and follows the public health advice.

“I know that these new flexibilities that I am announcing today will give people that peace of mind that my Department is here to support them if they become ill or are required to take time off work due to Covid-19.”

Covid boosters available to all ages from Sunday – Donnelly

The booster jabs will be available from HSE vaccination centres as well as GPs and community pharmacies.

The Covid-19 booster vaccination programme will open to all remaining age groups from Sunday, January 2 with initial appointments available for booking from later this evening.

Announcing the news on Twitter, the minister for health, Stephen Donnelly, said all those aged 16 years and above who are eligible for a booster vaccine will be able to access the service “earlier than scheduled”.

The booster jabs will be available from HSE vaccination centres as well as GPs and community pharmacies.

Ireland has the second-highest uptake of Covid-19 boosters in the European Union.

As of December 31, more than two million booster vaccines have been administered, with 130,000 doses in the past five days.

On Thursday, 58,000 vaccines were administered, while more than 6,400 people presented for their first or second jabs.

Mr Donnelly added that he would like to “thank healthcare staff and the public for their huge support of our vaccine programme”.

“This acceleration of the programmes means that many of our vaccination centres will now be administering primary, booster and paediatric doses of Covid-19 vaccine,” he said.

“Further clinics will be scheduled over the coming days. Appointments will be booked through the HSEs online system.”

20,110 new cases with 682 in hospital

A further 20,110 confirmed cases of Covid-19 have been notified in Ireland.

At 8am on Friday there were 682 Covid positive patients in hospital, a rise of 63 since yesterday. 

Of these, 86 were in intensive care, down two.

In the North, a record 7,215 positive cases of Covid-19 have been notified by the Department of Health with one further death.

Dr Holohan said it it was timely to remember frontline healthcare workers “who are now facing into a third year of pandemic response” and thank them for their efforts .

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said: “Once again, we are reporting another very high number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Ireland.

“The number of people in hospital with Covid-19 is continuing to increase.

“I know many people have cancelled or postponed planned social and family events, not just for News Year’s Eve, but right throughout the Christmas period.

“The occasions in life we most look forward to have been changed utterly by this pandemic.

“However, these collective efforts are necessary to protect ourselves, our loved ones and our health service.”

Dr Holohan said it it was timely to remember frontline healthcare workers “who are now facing into a third year of pandemic response” and thank them for their efforts .

“In the most challenging of circumstances, they continue to work to protect public health and to maintain access to services across all parts of our health service. 

“In the delivery of both Covid and non-Covid services, patients and their families have benefitted from their empathy, skill, and care.”

He also paid tribute to those who have “sadly died with Covid-19 in Ireland since the beginning of this pandemic, along with their families and loved ones who are grieving their loss”.

Dr Holohan added that there were “many reasons for cautious optimism” in 2022.

“Advances in science and public health including the development of new treatments like antivirals and monoclonal antibodies and the continued evolution of our understanding of this virus give us grounds to hope that 2022 may be a better year from a COVID point of view than either 2020 or 2021,” he said.

Health minister defends new testing and isolation rules

The Health Minister understands the frustration of many people who cannot get a PCR test, but has denied new guidelines on testing and social contacts are confusing.

Stephen Donnelly has admitted that in “most cases” people will not be able to use a positive antigen test for work purposes or social welfare purposes.

“The advice I have is that in most cases right now, you can’t use that, it is a positive PCR test that is used for those,” he said.

Mr Donnelly said that many people will still want to get a PCR test and argued that the reason behind the new requirement to have a positive antigen before booking a PCR is to ensure people can get the test “as quickly as they need it”.

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said that people with a positive antigen test can now register their close contacts on an online po

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