Mid and East Antrim to support expansion of asymptomatic testing programme sites

Local authorities have been requested to support the expansion of the Northern Ireland Asymptomatic Testing Programme through the provision of assisted testing sites, according to the minutes of a meeting of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council.

Thursday, 5th August 2021, 8:00 am

The council has given approval for the completion of a registration process as requested by the Department of Health and agreed to support the opening of assisted testing sites across the borough during a discussion which took place behind closed doors.

Asymptomatic testing is performed using a rapid Lateral Flow Device (LFD) that detects a protein produced by the virus at its most infectious stage. If present in a sample, a coloured line appears on the device after 15-30 minutes.

These tests should only be used by those who have no symptoms of Covid.

Health Minister Robin Swann during a visit to an employer-led Assisted Testing Site in Belfast. Picture: Michael Cooper

Anyone displaying symptoms of Covid-19 should have a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test at a test centre, or order one to be delivered to their home.

Alliance representatives East Antrim MLA Stewart Dickson and Larne Lough Councillor Danny Donnelly have urged Health Minister Robin Swann to open a Covid-19 test facility in Larne.

In a statement, Cllr Donnelly said: : “I have been contacted by a large number of constituents from Larne who have expressed their concern that the town is without a Covid-19 testing facility.

“As it is vitally important that anyone experiencing Covid-19 symptoms is tested, both for their own protection, and for those around them, we have raised the issue with the Department for Health.

Larne Lough Alliance Councillor Danny Donnelly

“Whilst we appreciate that people can order lateral flow kits and some testing facilities are not too far away, Larne is a large enough town to merit a facility of its own and making testing as easy as possible for local residents must be recognised as hugely desirable and worthy of prioritisation.”

Mr Dickson added: “At present, those residing in Larne have to travel to either Ballymena or Carrickfergus to obtain a test. This is far from ideal as many individuals do not own private cars and cannot take public transport for fear of spreading the virus.

“My concern is that many people suffering from Covid-like symptoms are therefore not being tested – especially children and young people – and subsequently, the residents of the town are at a higher risk of a local outbreak.”

A Department for Health spokesperson said: “Councils across Northern Ireland have been asked to support access to free rapid LFD tests for small businesses and anyone else who requires tests.

“This can be supported through the provision of ‘Collect’ sites where people can collect packs of tests, and Assisted Testing Sites (ATS).  This is a public health intervention as part of a suite of measures to help to prevent the spread of the virus.

“These tests should only be used by people who do not have any symptoms of the disease.”

Michelle Weir, Local Democracy Reporter

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Click here to read: Walk-in mobile vaccination clinics in the Northern Health and Social Care Trust area

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