A positive PCR Covid test result will no longer be a necessity to qualify for Enhanced Illness Benefit, under new changes announced this evening by the Minister for Social Protection.

Heather Humphreys confirmed that her Department will now accept proof of a HSE antigen test to qualify for the benefit.

It will also accept a text message from the HSE that you are a close contact or a cert from your GP.

Officials have adjusted the documentation required to receive the €350 Enhanced Illness Benefit accordingly.

The PCR testing system has been under huge strain in recent days with some people waiting several days before they can access a test. They must then wait for up to 72 hours before getting a result.

Earlier, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said he understands the frustration felt by many who cannot access a PCR test.

It was his understanding that a positive antigen test cannot be used for social welfare purposes and that a confirmatory PCR test is required.

Minister Humphreys said her Department has now expanded the range of documentation customers can use to apply for Enhanced Illness Benefit. It will now accept:

1) Confirmation from the HSE that you have ordered an antigen test (system will be in place from Monday)

2) Text message from the HSE that you are a close contact

3) 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: "With Covid-19 cases rising, I know this is an anxious time for families. That's why, following discussions between my officials and the HSE, I have this evening introduced new flexibilities to enable customers easier access to Enhanced Illness Benefit.

"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."