Northern Ireland news

Covid testing to end for health staff and visitors with no symptoms

People have had difficulty booking regular rapid (PCR) testing
Jonathan McCambridge, PA

Covid-19 testing for most symptomless staff and visitors in health settings will end from Monday.

The move comes as the north's chief medical officer said the number of Covid cases is likely to rise again this winter.

Advice to test remains in place for healthcare workers, care home residents and hospital patients who develop symptoms.

Visitors with symptoms of a respiratory infection, including Covid, should continue to avoid visits to hospitals and care settings, health officials said.

Lateral flow tests will still be available for free for those for whom testing is still advised.

Chief Medical Officer, Professor Sir Michael McBride, said: “The prevalence of Covid-19 in Northern Ireland has fallen significantly from that seen earlier this year.

“As a result, it is possible to pause asymptomatic testing in these groups at this time.

“This brings us into line with current policy in the other UK nations.

“It is likely that case numbers will increase as we progress through the coming autumn and winter period.

“All testing measures will continue be kept under regular review and measures may be reintroduced as deemed proportionate and necessary, taking account of ongoing risk assessment, and in order to protect our most vulnerable.”

Sir Michael continued: “At this time of year, with people spending more time indoors, respiratory infections, including Covid-19 and influenza, can spread more easily and can cause serious illness in some people.

“It is essential that people heed their symptoms and take appropriate and sensible action to minimise their contact with others should they develop symptoms.

“It is also important that people continue to test where this is advised, should they develop symptoms.

“Vaccination continues to provide excellent protection from serious illness, hospitalisation, or death.

“The winter vaccination programme, which includes the Covid-19 booster and influenza vaccine, has now commenced starting with care home residents and staff.

“This will be extended over the coming weeks and months to other eligible groups via GPs, community pharmacies, HSC Trusts and schools.

“I would urge everyone who falls into an eligible group to get ready for winter by taking up the offer of free vaccination Covid-19 and influenza.”

Northern Ireland news