Northern Ireland news

Sammy Wilson calls for Northern Ireland to follow England by ending test and trace

DUP MP Sammy Wilson. Picture by Brian Lawless/PA Wire

DUP MP Sammy Wilson has called for Northern Ireland to follow England by ending test and trace.

Mr Wilson claimed in January alone, £60 million was spent in the north on testing people "many of whom didn't need to be tested".

On Monday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that from tomorrow, all domestic restrictions will end including the legal requirement to self-isolate with people instead advised to stay at home if they have Covid, or believe they do.

In addition, free testing for the public will end in England from April 1, with most people having to pay for lateral flow and PCR tests.

Health Minister Robin Swann this week also revoked Northern Ireland's remaining Covid-19 restrictions, meaning rules that were formerly legally binding, such as wearing face coverings in enclosed public spaces, are now just guidance.

Mr Swann said while the test and trace programme in the north will remain under review, he would "carefully consider" England's plans and their implications for Northern Ireland.

In turn, some Stormont ministers have urged the government to rethink the decision to end free Covid-19 testing in England from April.

Stormont Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon said it would be wrong for the north to follow the decision, adding testing was "an important means of controlling transmission".

"Now to be saying, particularly to low income families, that they will have to pay for that is deeply, deeply concerning," she said.

However DUP MP Sammy Wilson said Northern Ireland should follow England's move.

Speaking on Good Morning Ulster, Mr Wilson said: "Test and trace was introduced at a time when we didn't have all of the means to combat Covid that we do today.

"The context has changed completely and of course, test and trace was also resulting in many people having to isolate and stay off work when it wasn't necessary for them to do so," he said.

"We don't do that kind of extensive test and trace for common flu, we don't ask people to self-isolate immediately, we don't ask businesses to be disrupted as a result of that. We ask people to engage in common sense".

Mr Wilson added: "In January alone, we spent £60 million alone on testing" people.

"I am sure that Robin Swann could find far, far more effective ways of spending £60 million in one month to alleviate some of the health problems that people face in Northern Ireland than the extensive test and trace system that we have in place at present".

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