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Coronavirus: Daily Covid-19 tests must be increased in Northern Ireland to ensure cancer services can become fully operational once again, warns charity

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A member of staff hands over a Randox laboratories Covid-19 self test kit to a member of the public at a drive-through test centre at the SSE Arena in Belfast. PA

A member of staff hands over a Randox laboratories Covid-19 self test kit to a member of the public at a drive-through test centre at the SSE Arena in Belfast. PA

PA

A member of staff hands over a Randox laboratories Covid-19 self test kit to a member of the public at a drive-through test centre at the SSE Arena in Belfast. PA

Up to 1,100 Covid-19 tests a day are needed in Northern Ireland to get cancer services back on track, according to new analysis from Cancer Research UK.

For cancer services to become fully operational again, protecting diagnosis and treatment areas from the virus must be an urgent priority, the charity insists.

In Northern Ireland, this would mean scaling up the daily testing programme by between 650 and 1,100 tests. Testing, together with enhanced infection control procedures and an adequate supply of PPE, will help protect patients and staff from Covid-19.

The findings are released as Cancer Research UK launches a campaign highlighting the importance of Covid-19 testing to ensure all cancer services operate safely.

As part of its #SafeSpaces4CancerServices campaign, the charity is urging people to contact their elected representative to alert them to the impact that the virus is having on cancer patients.

Around 9,600 people a year are diagnosed with cancer in Northern Ireland.

Margaret Carr, Cancer Research UK's public affairs manager in Northern Ireland, said: "It's deeply concerning that patients are not receiving the cancer diagnostic tests and treatment they need.

"This is partly due to people who have worrying symptoms not visiting their doctor because they're frightened they'll become vulnerable to the virus when they go for tests in hospital.

"Cancer testing and some treatment has also significantly stalled due to the pandemic, putting lives at risk."

Ms Carr said to address this, testing needed to be ramped up so that staff and cancer patients have confidence that diagnosis and treatment areas are safe.

She added: "In some cases, this would lead to lives being saved. Early diagnosis can significantly improve someone's chances of survival. It's crucial patients don't wait for the pandemic to be over before they receive the treatment they need.

"This is why it's essential we see all cancer services fully operational in Northern Ireland. This means taking action to quickly ramp up the number of virus tests offered."

Belfast Telegraph