May 8, 2020
McAleer raises concerns about rural access to COVID-19 testing

Sinn Féin MLA and chair of the Assembly’s Agriculture committee Declan McAleer has welcomed the extension of COVID testing to employees in food production but has expressed concern that some people may have to make a 200-mile round trip for a test.

The West Tyrone MLA said:“I welcome the fact that frontline workers, including those involved in food supply, can access COVID-19 testing in situations where they have to self-isolate due to COVID-19-like symptoms or a member of their household has symptoms.  “In these situations, the employees can apply to the testing programme and the PHA will arrange an appointment at one of the three test centres in the north, Craigavon, Derry or Belfast.   “At the committee this week I said to Minister Poots that if you live in rural parts of Fermanagh or West Tyrone this would require up to a 200-mile round trip for testing and that the decision to locate these centres was clearly not rural proofed and places people in these areas at a disadvantage.   “In his response, Minister Poots agreed with the concerns I raised and added that DAERA were not specifically involved in setting up the test centres but that the department would raise the issue with the PHA.  “Since the meeting, I have also written to the Health Minister Robin Swann to highlight the concern about lack of rural proofing as regards access to the Coronavirus Testing programme. I have asked that a resolution be found such as setting up an additional test centre in rural Fermanagh or West Tyrone or extending existing testing facilities in those areas to other frontline workers such as those involved in the food supply chain.”