A public health expert has said a lack of community testing for the coronavirus in Northern Ireland is putting the whole island of Ireland at risk.

Dr Gabriel Scally, president of epidemiology and public health at the Royal Society of Medicine in London, said the differences in testing and isolation times between Northern Ireland and the Republic need “to be sorted”.

He outlined: “If you get the virus in Strabane in Co Tyrone, you will be told to isolate for seven days.

“If you get it in Lifford in Co Donegal, you will be told, in keeping with WHO advice, to isolate for 14 days. That sort of thing is crazy.

“But the biggest one has to be the testing and the North really needs to sort that out because it puts both parts of the island in jeopardy of this virus going on far longer than it needs to.”

Dr Scally told Newstalk FM: “The WHO (World Health Organisation) have put out three questions to ask.

“Is the outbreak under control? Is the healthcare system able to cope if there’s a resurgence? And is there a system to detect and manage cases of their contacts and identify if there is a flare-up in a local area?”

He added of the latter part: “That just isn’t present anywhere in the UK, so the outbreak isn’t really under control.

“Certainly in the North, and the rest of the UK, they’re not doing testing in the community.”

Unless you can test in the community, how are you going to know if the infection is coming back unless you wait until people are carried in sick into hospitals?

Dr Gabriel Scally

Health officials in the Republic of Ireland are hoping to be in a position to carry out 15,000 tests a day from next week.

The country’s coronavirus-related death toll rose to 1,488 on Tuesday after a further 24 deaths were announced.

Another 107 positive cases were also confirmed, taking the total since the outbreak began to 23,242.

Meanwhile, the Irish government will issue guidance in the next few days about making and wearing face coverings to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said on Tuesday that there is no plan to make the wearing of face masks compulsory.

However, the National Public Health Emergency Team has said it does see a role for face coverings that are not medical standard in community settings.

The Republic has also outlined its plans to ease restrictions and some are due to be lifted next week.

Phase one is scheduled to start on Monday 18 May, with a formal decision on whether or not that will go ahead to be made and announced later this week.

A new mural by Irish artist Emmalene Blake of cartoon characters 'Pinky and the Brain' in South Dublin. Credit: PA

Coronavirus: Everything you need to know