LISTEN: COVID-19 testing starts at Agri-Food Institute labs

By Q Radio News and PA.

Testing for Covid-19 has started at the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute, boosting capacity in Northern Ireland.

It is being run by a consortium which includes Queen's University and Ulster University under the auspices of the Department of Health's Expert Advisory Group on Testing.

Patient sample testing began at the AFBI's laboratories this week.

It is expected to build up to delivering 1,000 tests per day, with further testing capacity, estimated to be an additional 400 tests per day, to be delivered by Ulster University in collaboration with the Western Trust.

Other collaborations are currently under development and are expected to come on line in June.

Health Minister Robin Swann said increased testing capacity will help in the fight against Covid-19.

"I am grateful to all colleagues in the consortium for their collective efforts, working together with colleagues in our HSC labs, to increase our capacity to provide quick, accurate diagnoses at such a crucial point in our fight against Covid-19," he said.

"This increased capacity will be key as we continue to deliver a robust response to this unprecedented pandemic and protect the health of our population."

Professor Elborn, who is involved in the project, said “We are pleased that patient sample testing for COVID-19 is now taking place at AFBI following a rigorous quality assurance process and extensive collaboration.

"This new facility will significantly increase Northern Ireland’s capacity for patient testing.

Professor Stuart Elborn

"The consortium is an example of what cross-sectoral partnership can achieve and the significant difference collaboration can make during this time of a global pandemic.”

Minister Edwin Poots also warmly welcomed the additional testing facility; “This is another positive step forward in our continued fight against COVID-19.

"I am grateful for the combined expertise from our universities and AFBI which has enabled us to increase our testing capacity in Northern Ireland.

"Testing is a key component in tackling this virus and our increased capacity at AFBI is an example of what can be achieved by successful collaboration.”

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