Doctor’s pandemic warning as NI testing sites shutdown

A leading doctor has warned the public that the coronavirus pandemic is not yet over, following the closure of testing sites across Northern Ireland on Friday evening.

By The Newsroom
Saturday, 23rd April 2022, 8:26 am
Updated Saturday, 23rd April 2022, 8:47 am
The Public Health Agency PCR Covid testing centres across Northern Ireland are closed from Friday 
Pictured is the site on Dunce Street, Belfast.

Picture Matt Mackey / Press Eye.
The Public Health Agency PCR Covid testing centres across Northern Ireland are closed from Friday Pictured is the site on Dunce Street, Belfast. Picture Matt Mackey / Press Eye.

Free PCR tests are no longer available to members of the public following the closure of the sites.

The Department of Health at Stormont announced on Thursday that the testing and contact tracing regime in Northern Ireland is changing.

Rather than a PCR test, members of the public with symptoms of the virus are now encouraged to take a lateral flow test instead.

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The department say the tests continue to be available free of charge from over 500 community pharmacies across Northern Ireland or by ordering online.

Dr David Farren, chair of the British Medical Association’s consultants’ committee in Northern Ireland, urged members of the public to continue to exercise caution when it comes to the virus, warning that the pandemic is not yet over.

“Covid is here to stay and we will continue to have our lives disrupted by it,” he told the BBC.

“If you’re walking out and about, and you’re passing 50, 60 people in the street, there’s a fair chance you’ve passed someone who’s positive with Covid and you have not known it, so you have had that exposure, and the end of contact tracing means that Covid will spread as a result of this decision.”

He added: “The more Covid is in the community, the more numbers end up in hospitals, the more people end up in intensive care, and the more people who will sadly die.”

Meanwhile, the latest weekly update from the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency shows that another fifteen deaths linked to Covid-19 have occurred in Northern Ireland.

The fatalities, which occurred in the week ending April 15, take the total number of coronavirus-linked death recorded by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (Nisra) to 4,519.

The figure is drawn from different data sources and is always higher than the Department of Health’s total as it provides a broader picture of the impact of Covid-19.

On April 15, the department had reported 3,382 deaths.

The department’s figures, which are updated daily, include only deaths where a patient had previously tested positive for the virus.

The latest figures from the department show that another 23 fatalities have occurred since April 15, bringing the latest total to 3,405.