Coronavirus: New Northern Ireland assessment centres open

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Altnagelvin Hospital
Image caption,
The first Covid-19 assessment centre opened at Alnagelvin Hospital last week

Three more coronavirus assessment centres have opened in Northern Ireland, with a further six to become operational this week.

The new centres have opened in Belfast, Dungannon and Banbridge.

Further GP-led centres will open in Antrim, Coleraine, Newtownards, Lisburn, Downpatrick and Enniskillen over the coming days.

It comes after the first centre at Altnagelvin Hospital, in Londonderry, became operational last week.

The centre reopened on Monday after it had to temporarily close over the weekend due to staff sickness.

The facilities are not test centres, but used to assess patients suspected of having Covid-19.

Cases are assessed by GPs at the centre and the most seriously-ill patients are then transferred to specialist wards.

A GP or out-of-hours referral is needed for patients to attend.

"The situation will be kept under review and further centres may be opened," the department said in a statement.

"Patients attending these centres will receive appropriate treatment, assessment and, if necessary, onward referral to hospital.

Expanded testing for NI health workers

The department also confirmed that health staff in Northern Ireland will be part of an NHS testing initiative announced on Friday.

It involves new partnerships, it said, between Thermo Fisher Scientific, Amazon, Boots, Royal Mail and County Antrim-based firm Randox, alongside the Wellcome Trust and top UK universities.

Image source, PA Media
Image caption,
County Antrim-based Randox is among a number of partners working to develop a NHS testing programme

“The Minister of Health has established an expert working group to lead on the expansion of testing across all our laboratory services, both within health and social care facilities and also to consider options for the utilisation of other testing facilities including within the commercial sector."

At present, testing among "key healthcare workers" includes staff working in emergency departments, critical care units, primary care and frontline ambulance staff.

"This position will be subject to regular review," the department said.

"As further capacity becomes available, testing can be expanded to further support and maintain vital services.”