SDLP Health Spokesperson Colin McGrath has said that the Department of Health must take action to address the lack of lateral flow tests available in the North.
He said it was particularly important people had access following the change to the Covid-19 guidance that people with a positive lateral flow test no longer require a positive PCR.
Pharmacists have warned that the current supply of lateral flow tests are not adequate to meet demand following the surge in Omicron cases.
South Down MLA Mr McGrath said:
“The Department of Health’s decision to change the guidance around the need for a PCR test will have major implications. While this should ease the pressure on our PCR testing sites, and this is to be welcomed, there are concerns that there are simply not enough lateral flow tests currently available to go around.
“The BMA has promised fresh supplies of lateral flow tests are getting out to chemists, but our pharmacies are under extreme pressure to meet the needs of our community. They are reporting that within the new supplies reaching them, all lateral flow tests are gone within hours. With the change in the guidance the demand for lateral flow tests is only set to increase.
“As supplies of lateral flow tests are determined under a four-nation structure, our Department of Health are now having to make representations to the Department of Health in England. This is creating an unnecessary obstacle to ensure these vital tools in our fight against Covid-19 reach those who need them. As pharmacies try to address these issues it is also creating major difficulties for them in regard to staffing.
“The Omicron variant continues to spread like wildfire throughout our community and the public need to be assured that the department is doing all that they can to ensure their safety and protection. We need an enhanced supply of lateral flow tests to give that assurance. The department must urgently get control of our testing capacity.”