People are being warned to use the testing facilities for Covid-19 in Northern Ireland responsibly.
The call came from Health Minister Robin Swann and Chief Medical Officer Dr Michael McBride as they provided an update from Stormont on Wednesday afternoon.
As both offered condolences following the loss of two lives as a result of Covid-19, the Health Minister warned of the potential for “another full scale onslaught”.
Both spoke as they revealed a second Nightingale Hospital at Whiteabbey would be operational by this winter to increase capacity in Northern Ireland.
There would be 100 regional care beds in a ‘step-down facility’ to help aid the flow of patients from ICU and acute care.
Health Minister Robin Swann also said care homes remain very much in the front-line and in Northern Ireland a rapid learning initiative had made 24 recommendations to help inform the department’s approach going forward.
Mr Swann said the demand for testing had intensified rapidly in recent weeks and primary care Covid centres are also reporting “significant pressures”.
The Minister said they were working hard to get through these challenges and expansion of testing was still a major priority.
“We in Northern Ireland are testing in large numbers,” he said, as he urged people to “please use testing responsibly”.
It was confirmed that the increase in testing had seen a rise in calls in relation to schools and concerned parents as children returned to classrooms.
The Health Minister again outlined the symptoms and said those who required testing were those who displayed these symptoms or had been advised by contact tracing service.
“If you do not have specific symptoms you do not need tested,” he added.
Chief Medical Officer Dr Michael McBride reinforced this and detailed how out of 800 calls for testing made yesterday (Tuesday) only 65 met the criteria.
He said it was “not uncommon for colds” and other ailments to circulate but reiterated that the only time a child needs tested is by displaying any of the symptoms of a continuous cough, a fever or high temperature or loss or change of taste or smell.
But Dr McBride reassured: “If you need tested you will be tested.”
He said there was “no doubt” there would be clusters associated with schools but not just in relation to school activities and contact there.
He said it was important that there was “clear consistent advice” and confirmed they were having twice weekly meetings with the Education Authority and would keep guidance under continuous review.