Northern Ireland Justice Minister Naomi Long says doctors have told her she was probably infected with coronavirus earlier this year and suffered long Covid in the months that followed.
The Alliance Party leader said she missed the party’s conference in March because she was taken to hospital for tests after experiencing chest pains and a high temperature.
A CT scan revealed a partially collapsed lung, which she told BBC Northern Ireland’s The View programme had made her “quite ill” for two weeks.
“What did start to worry me was the lag after that, because for the next three to four months I suffered from exhaustion, I found it difficult to breathe and it was really quite challenging to get the full recovery,” she said.
“When I was referred back to the clinic, in terms of having my lungs checked and all the follow-up on that, it was there that they said it had probably been a form of Covid that I had and that that would explain the very long recovery time which was consistent symptomatically with other people who had had long Covid, as it’s referred to.”
She was likely not diagnosed with the virus during her initial time in hospital as she did not have a cough, the minister said.
Her experience made her urge members of the public to undergo a test and isolate if they have any symptoms associated with Covid-19.
“Don’t wait until you have all the symptoms because you might never develop all of them,” she said.
“I was not aware that I had been exposed. I wasn’t aware that I had it and I was never tested for it at the time. But they’re pretty sure given the symptoms that that’s what it might have been.”
It comes as the Northern Ireland public face public face beefed-up coronavirus fines, with fixed penalty notices starting at £200.
The list of locations where people must wear a face covering has also been extended as Stormont ministers try to stem a dramatic surge of Covid cases.
Some 4,674 new cases of the virus have been confirmed in the region in the last week, while 120 people with Covid-19 are being cared for in hospital, 15 of whom are in intensive care, with 11 on ventilators.