WHAT is believed to have been one of the longest queues of vehicles, to date, built up outside a Covid testing centre in Ballymena today.
At one stage the queue contained dozens of vehicles and stretched out of the grounds of the Braid Valley Hospital onto the Cushendall Road towards Deerfin Way, local people said.
One local person told ‘Ballymena Daily’: “It was one of the longest queues yet for the testing centre.
“It became a talking point today because it doesn’t normally stretch so far down the Cushendall Road.
“However, at one point it was getting near Stevenson’s Funeral Directors and there must have been 50 vehicles in the queue. It certainly shows that tests are being well attended.”
Around 2pm on Wednesday the back of the queue was inside the car park with around ten vehicles waiting.
A spokesperson for the Northern Trust told ‘Ballymena Daily’: “The Trust’s COVID-19 testing team work from the Braid Valley Site. This team provides testing onsite for health and social care staff, their household contacts and elective care patients but is not open to the general public.
“For the general public, there are two ways to get a coronavirus test: going to a testing centre or getting a test kit delivered to your home. Testing for all symptomatic individuals in Northern Ireland can be booked at www.nhs.uk/ask-for-a-coronavirus-test
Meanwhile, Health Minister Robin Swann says more restrictions regarding Covid could be on the way.
On Wednesday afternoon he said tomorrow’s executive will have recommendations on the tightening of some restrictions.
He says decisions will be taken as to whether this will “apply to the whole of NI or more localised areas with higher rates of prevalence”.
“I am confident ministers will agree with me on the need for action – the figures suggest the time has come that we need to introduce measures to limit contact between people,” he says.
“Our case numbers have been rising sharply and so have the percentage of positive tests and more people of an older age are testing positive.
“We know the implications of that for our loved ones.
“If a foreign country had our figures we would be imposing quarantine on anyone returning from us.”
He says he does not want to restrict freedom and had supported the opening society for peoples’ mental and physically health and the economy.
He says it was good that hospital admissions were low but warned that this could change.
He also urges people to download the Covid app StopCovidNI as he says the more who download it, the better it would work, the BBC reports.
The BBC also said that positive Covid-19 cases have been reported in 64 separate schools in NI among staff or pupils in the first two weeks of the school term.
The Department of Education (DE) revealed the figure to the Stormont Education Committee on Tuesday.
Up until Tuesday 8 September, DE had been notified of 88 positive cases in 64 schools.
More than 300,000 children returned to classrooms in the first week of September.
The data on how many pupils and staff have been advised to self-isolate as a result is held by the Public Health Agency (PHA).
Adrian Murphy, from DE, told the committee that a number of schools had been in touch with the department about positive cases.
“We know how many schools have been in contact with us and in contact with the Education Authority where they have had positive cases reported,” Mr Murphy said.
“The department itself does not hold data on the actual number of positive cases, that data is held by the PHA,” he said.
“They hold all the testing data and the information in terms of whatever pupils or contacts of pupils would then be confirmed as a positive case,” he added.
“All we know at the point when we are managing this system is that we have been contacted by a number of parents and a number of schools where we have closures.
“Yesterday that was 88 reports into schools of a positive case in 64 education settings.
“You need to be mindful that that is out of 1,300 educational establishments so 64 is actually a very, very small proportion,” he said.
Mr Murphy did not specify how many cases were in primary, post-primary or special schools.
A number of schools in Northern Ireland have sent groups of pupils home to self-isolate for 14 days following advice from the PHA.
Mr Murphy also re-iterated that children should only be tested if they have symptoms of Covid-19.
The department also said that pupil and staff attendance rates at schools in the first full week of term were above 90%.
According to John Smith from DE, overall pupil attendance rates in primary schools were 92.8% while in post-primary schools they were at 94.6%.
In special schools, pupil attendance rates were 87.2%.
96.3% of teaching staff had been in school from 1 September while 97.3% of non-teaching staff had attended, according to the department.