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Workforce Covid testing programme extended

Thousands more employees and employers across Northern Ireland will be able to benefit from regular workforce testing for Covid-19.

Health Minister Robin Swann has today announced important plans to expand the current asymptomatic testing programme for workforces.

At present, the programme is available to employers in designated sectors with more than 50 employees who cannot work from home. This includes key sectors in the private and public sectors, including local councils.

The programme will be extended from next week to all private sector employers with more than 50 employees who cannot work from home.

Minister Swann said: “This expansion is good news for workers, for employers, for public health and for the Northern Ireland economy.

“Workforce testing is an important weapon in the fight against Covid-19. Up to one-third of people who have coronavirus are asymptomatic and by rapidly identifying and containing any asymptomatic cases, we can reduce the spread of transmission, alongside other protective measures such as handwashing and social distancing.

“There has been a great deal of interest in this programme from employers who want to work with us to keep their staff and customers safe, and to keep their businesses open. The Department has received around 230 expressions of interest so far.

“Given the success of this first phase, I am very pleased to be opening up the programme to all private sector employers with more than 50 employees who cannot work from home.”

Further details of the programme, and information on what it means for employers, are available on the Department’s website at: https://www.health-ni.gov.uk/workforce-testing and NI Business Info at: https://www.nibusinessinfo.co.uk/content/coronavirus-workplace-covid-19-testing-key-sector-employers.

Mr Swann added: “We are currently developing proposals to expand the programme to all private sector companies of any size and hope to announce further details of this shortly.

“It is crucial that everyone across the country helps us continue to keep infection rates low and break the chains of transmission of the virus.”

Lateral Flow Tests (LFTs) will be used in the workforce testing initiative and will help in the expansion of asymptomatic testing across a range of settings in Northern Ireland.

Individuals with positive LFTs will have to isolate immediately along with their households.  They should then book a PCR swab test at their closest test site to confirm the result. Community contact tracing will be initiated on PCR confirmation.

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