Regular testing for all asymptomatic care home visitors introduced
Visitors to all care homes across Northern Ireland will be encouraged to undertake twice weekly Lateral Flow Device (LFD) tests.
Making this testing available for all asymptomatic visitors, that is those not displaying any symptoms, is an important additional mitigation in the fight against the virus, and is part of the Department of Health’s ongoing work to support people to visit their loved ones in care homes. Visitors will now be recommended to undertake two LFD tests in their own home each week. The first LFD test should be taken three days before the planned visit and the second LFD test on the day of their visit to the care home. If the visitor has a positive LFD test result, they should self-isolate and book a confirmatory PCR test.
Announcing the expanded asymptomatic testing programme, Health Minister Robin Swann, said:
“It is estimated that around 1 in 3 people with COVID-19 do not have any symptoms and could be spreading the virus without knowing. Regular and ongoing testing can help identify those people with the virus so that they can self-isolate and help break the chains of transmission. This is particularly important in care homes.
“We have been successful in rolling out the vaccination programme to care homes but it remains as important as ever that we protect residents through strict adherence to infection prevention and control measures, and we continue to support safe care through participating in regular testing.”
Minister Swann continued:
“Visiting is vitally important for care home residents and for their loved ones, and the introduction of regular asymptomatic testing for all visitors as an additional support measure will help people benefit from much needed time with each other.”
Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Dr Lourda Geoghegan, said:
“A robust programme of testing and vaccination are critical lines of defence against COVID-19. Introducing regular self-testing for all care home visitors will further strengthen the important protection measures we have in place for care home residents.
“Regular asymptomatic testing using LFD tests is voluntary, however the more people who participate in this important testing programme the more likely we are to identify individuals who may be positive but not have symptoms. Therefore I would urge all visitors to care homes to protect their loved ones by participating in the regular testing programme.”