Martin concerned at ‘free for all’ developing in UK amid Delta variant

Use of antigen testing on a ‘population wide basis’ is under consideration, says Martin

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said there is a sense that people didn’t really believe the Nphet modeling provided ahead of the Government decision to postpone the reopening of indoor hospitality. Photograph: Julien Behal Photography/PA Wire

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said he is concerned about the “free for all” that appears to be developing in the UK and the threat of “spill over” here amid the spread of the highly transmissible Delta variant of Covid-19.

Mr Martin also said that modelling provided by the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet)appears to be correct in terms of the spread of the virus lying in the mid-point between the optimistic and pessimistic scenarios.

And he said that the use of antigen testing on a “population wide basis” is under consideration if Ireland’s testing and tracing regime comes under strain.

British prime minister Boris Johnson has set out how most Covid restrictions are to be lifted in England from July 19th.


At a press conference today Mr Martin said: “I am concerned about the free for all that seems to be developing within the UK, and that does raise issues for us as a people and as a country because we’re next door neighbours and what happens in the UK can spill over fairly quickly.

“Our public health advice would be that that’s not the way to go.

“Britain is obviously sovereign nation and is entitled to make its decisions.

“Obviously they do impact on us as well so I think people need to be cautious and careful.”

Mr Martin said there is a sense that people didn’t really believe the Nphet modelling provided ahead of the Government decision to postpone the reopening of indoor hospitality.

“The indications now are that modelling is not out – particularly in terms of the space between central one and central two scenarios.”


The Central 1 scenario based on “higher social mixing from July 5th” projects 187,000 cases, 3,490 hospitalisations and 545 deaths over July, August and September.

Central 2, based on “moderate social mixing from July 5th” would see 408,000 cases 7,690 hospitalisations and 1,230 deaths.

Mr Martin said: "what's happening in Scotland and the UK seems to be bearing out with some of the Nphet modellings so we need to take it seriously.

“I think if we take it seriously, we’ll avoid the worst of it.

“And if our personal behaviours can reflect that, then I think we can keep this under control.”

Mr Martin said he has spoken to the Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon and added: "There is no doubt that Delta variant rips through an unvaccinated population. That is the case. And that is happening now in different societies."

On antigen testing the Taoiseach said a group led by Prof Mary Horgan has been appointed to give advice to various sectors and agencies.

He added: “The worry with Delta is that we could have a very high volume of cases that will in itself strain the testing and tracing system.”

He said this could happen “No matter how good your testing and tracing system is” if there is a high volume of cases which is said is quite likely due to Delta.

“The big issue for us is the relationship with hospitalisation and severe illness ... in Scotland now the hospitalisations are beginning to rise.

“So, the use of antigen testing there by the HSE, for example, is been actively considered on a population wide basis.”

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn is a Political Correspondent at The Irish Times