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Coronavirus: MoT centres to be used for virus testing and Belfast City Hospital to be Covid-19 site


The MoT centre at Balmoral is expected to open in days.

The MoT centre at Balmoral is expected to open in days.

The MoT centre at Balmoral is expected to open in days.

Work is underway to re-purpose MoT centres in Northern Ireland into testing sites for suspect Covid-19 cases.

The BBC reported the Balmoral testing centre will be open from next week for testing with other sites undergoing assessment for suitability.

Lifts have been removed and pits filled in to allow for a drive-through testing facility, it was reported.

The Belfast Trust said it was working with the Department of Health and Department of Infrastructure to assess the suitability of using the MoT Centre at Balmoral for COVID-19 testing.

Sinn Fein has said testing needs to be increased in Northern Ireland. In the Republic authorities have set up centres in sports grounds and aim to test 15,000 a day, whereas in Northern Ireland they are aiming for over 1,000.

MoT tests have been suspended amid the outbreak.

Meanwhile Belfast City Hospital is to become another dedicated covid-19 site in the city

The Department of Health has said there could be a second wave of the virus in the autumn and Northern Ireland could see 3,000 deaths.

Health Minister Robin Swann said the latest modelling suggested Northern Ireland's health service could cope with the outbreak, however, only if the public stuck to the social distancing measures and stayed at home as much as possible.

He is also working on the location of field hospitals to treat people in the expected surge of cases. First Minister Arlene Foster said these would not be tented structures which could be seen during war time, but rather at the likes of exhibition centres. The Maze prison site which hosts the Balmoral show is one possibility.

Mrs Foster also said the Health Minister "intends to flex up his own estate in relation to intensive care beds but as the virus takes hold he believes it will be necessary to expand his hospital estate".

One contractor posted pictures of work it had been doing at the Belfast City Hospital.

Building and maintenance contractor Flynn said it had been working to segregate wards with stud walls wrapped in hygienic wall cladding.

"We extend our immense thanks to our amazing team for their continued and tireless work and to our supply chain teams, without whom we could not have completed these vital works," the company said in a tweet.

The Belfast Health Trust area has seen the biggest number of cases of covid-19.

Trust chief Executive Cathy Jack said Belfast City Hospital was almost ready and thanked those involved in the planning and delivery.

"The world is changing and so are we and yet again our staff have stood up and risen to the challenge and been simply outstanding," she said.

"I want to take the opportunity to thank everybody from Belfast and beyond and those organisations who have been so generous donating supplies and small comforts to our staff making their every day that little bit easier.

"Quiet simply I want to say to you, thank you, thank you and thank you again."

Tuesday saw the opening of GP-led primary care Covid-19 centres in Belfast, Dungannon and Banbridge.

The first opened in Derry last week with further centres in Antrim, Coleraine, Newtownards, Lisburn, Downpatrick and Enniskillen to open later in the week.

They are solely for people suspected of having the virus and they can only attend the centres if referred to by a GP.

Belfast Telegraph