The sale of COVID antigen tests at Lidl stores across the Republic has been defended by its CEO, JP Scally. The supermarket chain launched the 5-pack testing kits in its stores on Friday and some stores have already sold out.
Speaking to RTÉ Radio1’s Morning Ireland, Scally said he does not see any difference in his antigen tests and others. The tests have “a very important role to play” and customers should be trusted to use them appropriately, while continuing to take all the necessary public health measures along with the antigen tests.
According to Scally, Lidl’s testing kit is the most competitive on the market, coming in at €24.99 per pack of five. He said he had heard of people buying them online for €100 per test. “People have been using antigen tests since last summer. I think the cheapest currently on sale in the market elsewhere is about 10 to 12 euro per test.”
The kits and Lidl’s marketing have received criticism, with Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan and Tánaiste Leo Varadkar both voicing their concerns. Although they fear the easily accessible kit might fuel non-compliance from the public, “Government supports the wider use of antigen testing. Speaking to RTÉ Radio 1’s Morning Ireland this morning, Varadkar said they see it as “an additional health and safety measure, it is not a substitute for anything else”.
“Lidl is offering all its staff an antigen test every week, and I think that’s a really good thing. But what they are doing that I disagree with is the advertisement. Maybe it was a joke, but it was a bundle of sausages, charcoal and an antigen test. The message that sends out is that an antigen test is something you can take and if it’s negative you’ve got the all-clear to go off to the bbq party and socialise.”
Can I get some snake oil with that? It makes for a great salad dressing with a pinch of salt and something acerbic. Stay safe when socialising outdoors over the next few weeks. Small numbers, distance, masks. These antigen tests will not keep you safe. https://t.co/CsoTNrpfye
— Professor Philip Nolan (@PhilipNolan_SFI) May 8, 2021
Adding antigen testing should only be used in a controlled environment, Dr Holohan said this use “represents a real risk to our pandemic response”. In a healthcare setting, the test sample can be tested on-site, meaning the results are returned much quicker. Although quicker than a COVID-19 PCR test, there are limitations as these tests can sometimes not provide a positive or negative result.
However, Mr Scally said the uptake from staff “has been very positive,” as they were “delighted” at this extra level of security. Scally said one member of staff already tested positive after using the antigen test. The person removed himself from the workplace and his GP referred him for PCR testing, where he was found to have COVID-19.
Mr Scally said Lidl had found that 99% of customers followed all the guidelines of wearing masks, using hand sanitisers, and said the use of the antigen tests would be “no different”. Mr Scally believes antigen testing has an important role to play and “we have to trust that they (public) will use it properly.”