NI to accelerate asymptomatic Covid-19 testing programme

  • Northern Ireland is expanding its asymptomatic Covid-19 testing programmes to include targeted testing for communities, businesses, and emergency services.

    The UK is aiming to slowly phase out of the latest lockdown starting in just a few weeks, but people are worried that this could lead to another wave of Covid-19 cases as happened the last time lockdowns were lifted prematurely. Northern Ireland has put a testing strategy in plce to help manage the spread as lockdown lifts.

    One of the reasons that Covid-19 has spread so rapidly after previous lockdowns is that people can spread the virus while having no symptoms at all or even very mild symptoms. Around 1 in 3 individuals who contract Covid-19 and may be capable of spreading it will not show symptoms, so testing only people with symptoms is not enough.

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    Health Minister Robin Swann has now announced several new initiatives that aim to test asymptomatic people for Covid-19 in order to detect the spread of the virus quickly and help the NI Executive make decisions about public health or further restrictions. The new programmes will include targeted testing for communities, businesses, and emergency services across Northern Ireland.

    The expanded asymptomatic testing will run alongside the existing programmes already running in the health and education sectors. It takes advantage of the recent increase in Northern Ireland's capacity to deliver rapid testing for Covid-19 using Lateral Flow Devices, and will incorporate any new testing technology that becomes available.

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    The Minister commented: "Expanding the programme in this way is a significant move and an important additional weapon in our fight against Covid-19. As we move to the next phases in this pandemic, new testing technologies will play an essential role economically, educationally and socially within the overall package of measures available to drive down infection and keep rates of transmission low."

    Chief Medical Officer, Dr Michael McBride warned: "Research has shown that around 1 in 3 people who have coronavirus do not display symptoms and may be unknowingly spreading the virus. Regular testing of those who do not have symptoms will help us find hidden positive cases, we can then support these cases to self-isolate in an early and timely way, and thus we will continue to break chains of transmission."

    Source: Written based on press release

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    Brendan is a Sync NI writer with a special interest in the gaming sector, programming, emerging technology, and physics. To connect with Brendan, feel free to send him an email or follow him on Twitter.

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