MOT test centres in Northern Ireland are to become test centres in the fight against COVID-19.

The Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon has released the DVA test centres for the use, with the first tests beginning at the DVA’s Boucher Road facility from Tuesday. An appointment is necessary and will be arranged by the Belfast Trust.

It comes as a drive-through test centre for healthcare workers opened at the SSE Arena last Saturday. The facility is part of the NHS-wide staff testing initiative which complements Trust testing work.

To date there have been 70 deaths from Covid-19 in Northern Ireland, with 7 more confirmed deaths on Monday.

A special Stormont Covid committee is due to meet for the first time on Tuesday.

Speaking ahead of the opening of the Boucher Road centre, Ms Mallon said:

“It is important that we all work together in the fightback against COVID-19. Keeping people safe is my number one priority and I will continue to do all I can within my Department, freeing up any resources we have, to support the Health Minister and all our health trusts in the fight against this deadly virus.

Nichola Mallon, Minister for Infrastructure

Ms Mallon added:

“Through use of our MOT centres, we are delighted to be able to support the Health Minister and play our part in helping to rapidly increase testing to help save lives.”

To protect customers and staff, the Minister has suspended testing at all MOT test centres while the fight against COVID-19 continues.

Health Minister Robin Swann said:

“We know that many members of the healthcare workforce who are currently undertaking home isolation are keen to return to work as soon as possible to support colleagues at this critical time.

"I understand that it has been a frustrating and worrying time for those staff who have displayed symptoms of COVID-19, or those whose family members have symptoms.

“The rapid expansion of testing capacity has been a key priority and we have been working with the Public Health Agency and HSC Trust colleagues to significantly increase the number of healthcare workers who can access testing for COVID-19.

“ I want to thank everyone who has worked tirelessly to get these staff testing centres ready for use, and the Infrastructure Minister for making these facilities available. I have no doubt that the greater number of tests that can now be carried out will allow vital frontline staff to return to work as we face increasing challenges in the days and weeks ahead.”