The Health Minister has launched a new ‘Pharmacy Collect’ service which enables people to collect rapid COVID-19 tests from selected community pharmacies.
“Alongside vaccination and contact tracing, testing is one of the main pillars of protection against the virus,” the Health Minister said.
“1 in 3 people who have COVID-19 have no symptoms, or are pre-symptomatic. The introduction of the Pharmacy Collect service will significantly increase the range of locations that people who require rapid tests can access them.
“The service supplements the existing workforce testing schemes and other community collect sites, which can all be found using the Sitefinder website.
“By engaging in rapid COVID testing, we can help keep each other safe and play our part in helping society return to normality.”
To date 420 pharmacies in Northern Ireland have signed up for the scheme.
Rapid COVID-19 tests – known as Lateral Flow Device (LFD) tests – have an important role in detecting asymptomatic cases. This means people who are infected but are showing no symptoms and may be unwittingly passing the virus on to others. Testing twice a week and on a regular basis with LFDs increases their detection rate. LFD tests are effective at picking up those who are most infectious.
Rapid tests are available for anyone who requires them. All results should be reported. Where someone receives a positive test, they should immediately self-isolate and book a confirmatory PCR test.
Cathy Harrison, Chief Pharmaceutical Officer said: “The contribution of community pharmacy teams to the COVID-19 pandemic response has been invaluable and the introduction of the new Pharmacy Collect service will improve access to testing for the general public.
“This is another step forward to people getting their normal lives back. Many people with COVID-19 have mild or no symptoms, but they can continue to spread the virus. Rapid tests, in conjunction with the wearing of masks, regular hand washing and social distancing, can help to prevent onward transmission of the virus.”
Reacting to the launch of the Pharmacy Collect Service for rapid Covid-19 tests, Vice-Chair of Community Pharmacy NI, Peter Rice said:
“The introduction of the Lateral Flow Device (LFD) distribution service to community pharmacy will greatly increase the public’s access to testing at a crucial time. As we enter what is expected to be an even more difficult period for our health service, tests will now be available for collection from over 400 community pharmacies throughout Northern Ireland. By increasing access to testing at a local level we can help to prevent the transmission of the virus within our communities.
“This further demonstrates the desire of our community pharmacy network to deliver new services throughout the course of the pandemic. Having this service in our pharmacies is another significant step forward and supplements our role in the vaccination effort to date.”