Close contacts of confirmed coronavirus cases to be tested

The new measure is aimed at identifying people who may have the virus, but be asymptomatic. Credit: PA

Close contacts of confirmed coronavirus cases are to be asked to take a PCR test for the virus within 48 hours of being identified as a close contact.

This testing will be regardless of whether the close contact has symptoms of Covid-19.

The Department of Health says this new measure is aimed at identifying people who may have the virus, but be asymptomatic.

Speaking about the change, Health Minister Robin Swann said it is the "next step in the ongoing development of our testing initiative.

Close contacts of confirmed cases of COVID-19 will be asked to take a PCR test within 48 hours of being identified as a close contact, whether or not they have symptoms. "Expanding and targeting PCR testing is a significant move in our fight against COVID-19, it will assist us as we move carefully out of restrictions and in keeping Northern Ireland open and moving."

Mr Swann said the new initiative should help to break the chain of infection of the virus.

“We know that one in three people with COVID-19 may not have symptoms and may therefore spread the SARS-CoV-2 virus without knowing it. By recommending PCR testing to all close contacts we will track how the virus is spreading.

Testing of close contact combined with enhanced contact tracing allows us to identify potential sources of infection an new cases earlier and will help keep us one step ahead in interrupting transmission.

Robin Swann

Dr Michael McBride, Chief Medical Officer, said: “As we move out of lockdown and prepare for some lifting of restrictions, we must use all the tools at hand in our ongoing battle against COVID-19."

Testing of close contacts is not an alternative to self-isolation. Close contacts still need to isolate for the full 10 days even if their tests are reported negative.