People living in Northern Ireland offered Covid-19 tests in Great Britain

People living in Northern Ireland offered Covid-19 tests in Great Britain

Northern Ireland Health Minister Robin Swann. Picture: Matt Mackey

Robin Swann has called for improvements to be made to the UK-wide online booking system after people in Northern Ireland were offered Covid-19 tests in Great Britain.

The NI Health Minister said he has contacted the UK's Secretary of State for Health Matt Hancock in relation to issues facing the National Covid-19 testing system.

Mr Swann said he is seeking action on a number of concerns.

“To be clear, no one in Northern Ireland is expected to travel outside the jurisdiction for a test,” he said.

“These slots have been offered by the online system because it has not on occasions recognised local requirements. The same problem has been reported in Scotland.

“I want to see this glitch resolved as a priority.

“I have also emphasised the need to urgently build capacity for the national testing programme.”

Mr Swann said the national system has come under pressure in recent days due to significantly rising demand.

These are linked at least in part to the reopening of schools, Mr Swann added.

“I need to again appeal to the public to use the service responsibly. Online bookings are made by self-referral but that does mean they are open to all,” he added.

“Tests are solely for those who have symptoms or have specifically been referred for a test by the Contact Tracing Service.”

Mr Swann said that he understands the continuing high levels of public concern about Covid-19, but the Government must protect the testing system.

“Common cold symptoms outside of a cough, fever or loss of/change to sense of taste or smell do not require a test,” he explained.

“The reopening of schools is a vital priority which I fully support. It has brought serious pressures for schools, parents and children, as well as the testing system.”

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