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Health Minister Robin Swann has set out all the ways testing can help keep people safe from COVID-19.

“Alongside vaccination and contact tracing, testing is one of the main pillars of protection against the virus,” the Minister said.

“A number of different COVID-19 testing services are available in Northern Ireland and I would encourage people to make use of these services as required and as appropriate.

“By doing so, we can help keep each other safe and play our part in helping society return to normality.”

COVID-19 testing services include PCR tests, for people with symptoms, and the more rapid Lateral Flow Device tests.

If you have any symptoms of COVID-19, you should self-isolate and book a PCR test immediately. PCRs – the most accurate tests – are available at testing sites across Northern Ireland and can be booked at: https://www.gov.uk/get-coronavirus-test

PCRs have to be processed in a laboratory and individuals who are tested will receive their results within 48 hours of undertaking the test.

Minister Swann emphasised the importance of symptomatic testing, adding: “I would urge everyone with symptoms to get a PCR test, to co-operate and work with our Contact Tracing service if they receive a positive PCR test result, and to self-isolate immediately if they develop symptoms.”

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.

It’s estimated that a third of all COVID-19 cases are asymptomatic

While rapid COVID-19 tests are not as sensitive as PCR tests, they are simple to use and produce results within 30 minutes and, with regular use, help to detect infection early.

The use of LFD testing is important as an additional measure alongside the range of existing safety measures in place across workplaces and other settings. It is important to remember that, even with a negative LFD test, people should not change their behaviours and must continue to follow all other public health and safety measures in place.

Anyone who gets a positive LFD result should self-isolate and book a confirmatory PCR test immediately. If the PCR test result is negative, the individual and their household can leave isolation and no further action is required. If the PCR test result is positive the individual and their household and all other close contacts should complete a full 10 days of self-isolation.

The Department of Health is actively encouraging employers to get involved in workplace LFD testing through its NI SMART: Asymptomatic Testing Programme. Two different schemes are available: a collect system where test packs are provided to employees for self-testing; and assisted testing where the process is undertaken for them

As society reopens and the Delta variant becomes dominant, it is inevitable that case numbers will rise in Northern Ireland. However, we are not powerless and it is important we all keep following the public health advice.  Regular asymptomatic testing will help us to stop COVID-19 spreading undetected, and this will help keep the economy moving.

Further information on the NI SMART: Asymptomatic Testing Programme is available at: www.health-ni.gov.uk/rapid-tests

Members of the public can also obtain test packs free of charge, for regular use.

It’s important to report your result from your LFD test in all cases regardless of your result. This will help our health service monitor the virus most effectively: https://www.gov.uk/report-covid19-result

To repeat, if you get a positive LFD test, self-isolate and book a confirmatory PCR test immediately. And if you have symptoms of COVID-19, self-isolate and book a PCR test immediately.

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