Minister must explain discrepancy in cross-border testing policy, says Bradshaw

Alliance Health spokesperson Paula Bradshaw MLA has said the Health Minister must explain the discrepancy in cross-border testing policy, as contacts of people testing positive for COVID-19 in Northern Ireland are still told not to seek a test unless they have symptoms but in the Republic they are offered one regardless.

The South Belfast MLA said the discrepancy in testing policy had created some difficulties in border areas in particular.

“The absolutely key difference between coronavirus and other viruses is people are most infectious before they exhibit symptoms. That is the reason it is so hard to track, and the reason transmission can grow exponentially just as we have seen in parts of the border area,” she said.

“It therefore seems baffling people are still asked to wait until they display symptoms before seeking a test. If they display symptoms it is already too late in many instances – the most infectious period will in many cases already have passed. This may well be a core reason transmission rose so much faster in Northern Ireland than in the south, where close contacts of those testing positive are offered a test regardless of symptoms.

“The discrepancy in testing policy has created some difficulties in the border area, where cases have risen faster than anywhere else over the past six weeks or so.

“There is no good reason the expert advice would be any different in Northern Ireland from in the Republic, yet given this is a virus which often does not become apparent until it has already spread, the south’s system of offering tests to all close contacts in case of positive test is exactly what is supposed to happen to help prevent onward infection.

“The Health Minister must fully and urgently explain why Northern Ireland is not adopting the same policy.”