Close contacts now asked to self-isolate AND take covid test in NI, says Robin Swann

Close contacts of confirmed cases of COVID-19 will be asked to take a PCR test within 48 hours of being identified as a close contact, whether or not they have symptoms, the Department of Health has said.

Thursday, 15th April 2021, 3:21 pm
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A spokesperson for the Stormont department said: “Until now only people with symptoms had to take a PCR test This additional measure, which will see all close contacts advised to have a PCR test, is aimed at identifying those close contacts who do not have symptoms but who could potentially be carrying the SARS-CoV-2 virus. This testing of asymptomatic contacts will provide further opportunities to identify more cases who would otherwise be unknown, to the Contact Tracing Service.”

Health Minister Robin Swann said: “Testing of close contacts is the next step in the ongoing development of our testing initiatives in Northern Ireland. Expanding and targeting PCR testing is a significant move in our fight against COVIDd-19, it will assist us as we move carefully out of restrictions and in keeping Northern Ireland open and moving.

“We know that one in three people with COVID-19 may not have symptoms and may therefore spread the SARS-CoV-2 virus without knowing it. By recommending PCR testing to all close contacts we will track how the virus is spreading and this will help to further break chains of infection. Testing of close contact combined with enhanced contact tracing allows us to identify potential sources of infection an new cases earlier and will help keep us one step ahead in interrupting transmission.”

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The change is the latest in a number of recent testing initiatives using a technology known as ‘Lateral Flow Device’ testing. The health department say PCR (polymerase chain reaction) based testing of close contacts of confirmed cases is another important initiative.

Dr Michael McBride, Chief Medical Officer, said: “As we move out of lockdown and prepare for some lifting of restrictions, we must use all the tools at hand in our ongoing battle against COVID-19. Our vaccination programme continues to progress and this new initiative to test close contacts offers an extra layer of protection as we move forward in this pandemic. Please continue to use the StopCOVIDNI App and please continue to follow the advice of Test Trace Protect if you are contacted. This is as important now as when case numbers were higher.”

The department also confirmed that testing is not being used as an alternative to self-isolation, and stress that close contacts still need to ““isolate for the full 10 days even if their tests are reported negative”.