Northern Ireland news

Enhanced testing after more suspected cases of Delta variant identified

Facilities were set up for coronavirus surge testing at Ballymartin GAC in Kilkeel, Co Down, earlier this month after a number of suspected cases of the Delta variant were identified in the area. Liam McBurney/PA Wire.
Jonathan McCambridge, PA

Enhanced Covid testing is to be carried out in Castlewellan in Co Down and in Derry after a number of suspected cases of the Delta variant of coronavirus were identified.

The Public Health Agency (PHA) said early results from the two areas are suggestive of the variant, first identified in India, but this has not been confirmed.

As a precautionary measure, the PHA is asking asymptomatic people aged 18-40 from selected, targeted neighbourhoods within these areas to get tested.

They will be contacted by post from tomorrow.

Earlier this week it was disclosed there were 612 confirmed or probable cases of the Delta variant detected in all 11 council areas in Northern Ireland.

About half of Covid-19 positive cases sampled in Northern Ireland are now indicative of the Delta variant.

The variant was first identified in India, and is now dominant in the UK.

Dr Brid Farrell, assistant director of service development, safety and quality at the PHA, said: “Testing in these areas is a precautionary measure to identify asymptomatic cases and help prevent and delay further spread of the virus.

“By slowing the spread of the virus, this allows us to get more people in the community vaccinated and get protected against Covid-19, which is effective against the Delta variant.

“PCR testing is opening to those in the 18 to 40 age group as we are seeing more cases of the Delta variant in this age group throughout Northern Ireland.

“We encourage those eligible in the neighbourhoods identified by the agency to book a slot for testing when they receive their letter, and preferably within 24-72 hours of receipt.

“We are seeing cases of the Delta variant across all council areas of Northern Ireland and this is a reminder to everyone that we should take steps now to help reduce the spread of the variant and avoid becoming complacent.”

The delivery of letters is being staggered to enable access to mobile testing units that have been deployed to the areas.

Earlier this month the PHA sent a number of testing units to the Co Down town of Kilkeel to carry out surge testing for Delta.

Testing has also been carried out in Omagh and Ballymoney after a number of probable cases were identified.

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