A hospital in the North is planning to send Covid-19 patients to England for treatment.
Antrim Area Hospital is ready for drive-through testing for the virus and expects patients will receive results within four hours. They will be swabbed in the nose and mouth then told to go home and self-isolate while awaiting the outcome.
Doctors are attempting to contain the spread of the virus until the summer, when it will be easier for hard-pressed health services to manage and the infection could go dormant.
Dr Seamus O’Reilly, medical director for the Northern Health and Social Care Trust, said: “If the test comes back positive there is a very well-rehearsed process that we do in conjunction with our colleagues in England.
“We identify an infectious diseases bed in England, if possible, to transfer the patient to.
“If we cannot transfer the patient across for whatever reason, the infectious diseases beds in the Royal (The Royal Victoria in west Belfast) will be used for that purpose, that is ward 7A.”
Tests are analysed in Belfast’s virology lab and the number which can be conducted has been increased.
Results will be ready within four hours, Dr O’Reilly added.
One person in Northern Ireland has been diagnosed with the condition so far.
Meanwhile, Stormont’s First and Deputy First Ministers have scaled back a US investment trip to take part in emergency meetings on Covid-19.
Arlene Foster said the infection is the top priority of ministers in Belfast.
She and Michelle O’Neill cancelled plans for the New York leg of their itinerary at the start of next week. Economy Minister Diane Dodds will be fulfilling engagements in New York instead.