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Dublin: 4°C Thursday 25 February 2021

Hospital in Antrim sets up drive-through Covid-19 testing service

Patients will be swabbed in the nose and mouth then told to go home and self-isolate while awaiting the outcome.

A nurse demonstrates drive-through coronavirus testing procedures.
A nurse demonstrates drive-through coronavirus testing procedures.
Image: Michael Cooper/PA Wire

A HOSPITAL IN Antrim is ready for drive-through testing for the Covid-19 virus and expects patients will receive results within four hours.

Patients at Antrim Area Hospital will be swabbed in the nose and mouth then told to go home and self-isolate while awaiting the outcome.

Doctors are attempting to contain the spread of the virus until the summer, when it will be easier for hard-pressed health services to manage and the infection could go dormant.

Most cases are expected to be relatively mild and may simply involve self-isolation and care at home.

However, Northern Ireland health authorities are planning to send Covid-19 patients to England if they require further clinical treatment.

Dr Seamus O’Reilly, medical director for the Northern Health and Social Care Trust, said: “If the test comes back positive there is a very well-rehearsed process that we do in conjunction with our colleagues in England.”

That involves assessing whether the patient requires care in a hospital then planning the logistics of the move.


“We identify an infectious diseases bed in England, if possible, to transfer the patient to.

“If we cannot transfer the patient across for whatever reason, the infectious diseases beds in the Royal (The Royal Victoria in west Belfast) will be used for that purpose, that is ward 7A,” O’Reilly said.

Tests are analysed in Belfast’s virology lab and the number which can be conducted has been increased.

Results will be ready within four hours, Dr O’Reilly added.

He said: “The whole idea is to contain it as long as possible, we get into the springtime where it is a little bit warmer, experience would tell you the virus may not be as virulent and may actually go dormant over spring and summer time.

“The longer we can buy time for that to happen the better.

“It allows time for research into the virus, to look at different treatments and perhaps in a year or a year-and-a-half’s time, a vaccine.”

There are now three confirmed Covid-19 cases in Northern Ireland and two in the Republic of Ireland.

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