Providing “easy and accessible” COVID testing vital – Sugden

MAINTAINING easily accessible and comprehensive COVID testing facilities for the north coast is vital as case numbers continue to increase, East Londonderry MLA Claire Sugden has said.

Constituents had reported difficulties with booking appointments both online and on the phone, and the existence of only four full testing sites meant many people had to travel long distances in order to complete a test, Ms Sugden said.

“I have spoken to people who have had to wait on the phone lines all day before finally getting an appointment,” Ms Sugden said. “Then, when they do get through, they have to travel to Londonderry or Ballymena.

“If, as has been suggested, the Minister for Health is expecting us to see increased cases over the winter, then what are his plans for greater testing? If further widespread lockdowns are not likely then he needs to ensure those who have COVID are isolating at home. Testing is therefore essential.

“Are there plans for more testing sites, and rolling out more mobile testing facilities? Lots of personnel were trained up and then dismissed, so there does exist a resource for increased testing.”

The testing sites that existed were also, for the most part, not easy to access via public transport, particularly from the north coast, the independent MLA said.

“It’s vital we have a sufficiently high testing capacity here and that those who need to, can get tested easily and quickly,” Ms Sugden said. “People want to do the responsible thing and get tested. It’s the government’s responsibility to facilitate that.”