The Taoiseach has said he believes antigen testing should be used more widely in society.

Speaking on Newstalk, Micheál Martin said he sees a role for their use when third level students return to campus in September and where there are local outbreaks, adding "we should experiment a bit more" with the testing.

Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan said last month that the results of antigen tests carried out by the public cannot be relied upon and the National Public Health Emergency team strongly recommends against their use by the general public.

An Oireachtas committee heard arguments yesterday in favour of antigen testing, with one expert saying the suggestion that antigen testing will encourage poor behaviour is "back to the argument" around "seatbelts and condoms".

Dr Niamh Power established V1 Medical last November to provide rapid antigen testing at Dublin and Cork Airports.

She told the Joint Committee on Transport and Communications that antigen testing allows people to adapt to regularly changing travel rules, as it can be administered quickly, unlike PCR tests.

The Taoiseach also said the Government is aiming to have 70% of the population fully vaccinated by the end of July, but the target was target was dependent on supply.

Mr Martin said the decision by the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) to reduce the interval between doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine would help in reaching that target.

He said he met the company last week and its supplies are looking better than they did due to increased capacity for production in Spain and Germany.

Mr Martin said he would ideally like to see a phased return to the workplace by the end of August, but the Delta (India) variant was still causing concern and needs to be monitored because of the number of hospitalisations in the UK.

The Taoiseach also said he thinks more could be done in planning for an outdoor summer and while some local authorities have planned well for this, there is more to do.

Opportunity for HSE to broaden vaccine cohorts through pharmacies

Meanwhile, the Secretary General of the Irish Pharmacy Union has confirmed that pharmacists will begin administering the Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine next week.

Darragh O'Loughlin said the scheme is targeted at the over 50s who have not yet been vaccinated.

Speaking on RTÉ's Today with Damien O'Reilly, he said that the vaccine will be free and people do not have to be registered on the vaccination portal in order to get it.

Mr O'Loughlin said there are a variety of reasons why people may not have registered, including inability to access the portal, hesitancy, or perhaps literacy problems.

For various reasons, the Health Service Executive has not used pharmacies until now, he said, and the opportunity is there for the HSE to broaden the cohorts that can receive a vaccine in a pharmacy.

Mr O'Loughlin said it will not be possible for people who are waiting to receive a second AstraZeneca vaccine to substitute a J&J vaccine for the second dose because the HSE is not doing crossover vaccines.

Professor of Comparative Immunology at Trinity College Dublin Clíona O'Farrelly said the vaccine rollout is "absolutely wonderful" and take up is in the 90 percentile of those offered one.

She said a portion of the ten percentile who chose not to get the injection is as a result of hesitancy and not an anti-vaccination stance.

Professor O'Farrelly urged those who are waiting for their second shot of AstraZeneca to be patient, saying "we will all get fully vaccinated", adding it is likely people will have to continue getting booster vaccinations over the coming years.

Low uptake of free PCR tests for incoming passengers - HIQA

The Health Information and Quality Authority said there appears to be a low uptake of free post-arrival testing in passengers arriving in Ireland, from non-designated states.

These are countries for which hotel quarantine does not apply upon entering Ireland.

HIQA has advised that there should be better data collection on eligibility and uptake of post-travel tests, as well as data on adherence to quarantine, to understand if the existing quarantine policy is effective.

HIQA has told the Health Service Executive that the current minimum quarantine for these passengers arriving in Ireland should not be increased.

Currently, after travelling into Ireland from a non-designated country, passengers are required, by law, to quarantine at home for 14 days.

There is an option to 'test-out' of quarantine, by availing of a free PCR test taken no less than five days after arrival and subject to receiving a negative or 'not detected' test result.

HIQA chief scientist Dr Conor Teljeur said that it had advised that the timing of the test should not be extended, as it would only slightly reduce the risk of transmission, but would substantially increase the burden on passengers in terms of time spent in quarantine.

He said that by improving the content, accuracy and coverage of the Passenger Locator Form, it will be possible to better manage and monitor the current quarantine policy.

Additional reporting Fergal Bowers