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Coronavirus: Two Northern Ireland firms are selling Covid-19 tests around the world but no orders from NHS


Those displaying mild symptoms are not being tested for Coronavirus (Ben Birchall/PA)

Those displaying mild symptoms are not being tested for Coronavirus (Ben Birchall/PA)

Those displaying mild symptoms are not being tested for Coronavirus (Ben Birchall/PA)

At least two companies in Northern Ireland have been distributing coronavirus testing kits around the world - but have had no orders from the Department of Health, it has emerged.

Crumlin-based Randox Laboratories and Biopanda Reagents in Belfast have both developed quick and cost-effective testing kits for the virus, which has so far infected more than 225,000 people and resulted in excess of 9,000 deaths globally.

The news comes after Health Minister Robin Swann said there is not the capacity to carry out mass testing in Northern Ireland.

Speaking in the Assembly on Monday, Mr Swann said that limited resources meant only those requiring hospitalisation, those who have recently travelled to an affected area, and those with underlying health conditions are being tested.

In response to the pandemic, Biopanda Reagents has developed its "Covid-19 Rapid Test", which detects the virus through identifying antibodies.

The kit is a plastic cassette-type device into which blood is inserted, causing a reaction when Covid-19 antibodies are present. The results are ready in just ten minutes.

Biopanda sales manager Philip McKee said there has been a "huge demand" for the tests, however there have been no orders from the NHS.

"We’re supplying to clinics, doctors surgeries, anywhere that would have a healthcare professional that can perform such tests,” he told Wired magazine.

Mr McKee said the firm has had to hire extra staff to help with packing and dispatching the tests, with orders coming in from around the globe.

In Northern Ireland, 68 people have tested positive for coronavirus and one person has died.

As of Wednesday afternoon, a total of 1,482 tests have been carried out in the region.

Those experiencing mild symptoms, such as a persistent new cough or a fever, have been advised to self-isolate, however they will not require testing.

Crumlin-based Randox Laboratories has also developed a "multiplex viral respiratory infection array" that tests for Covid-19 and nine other infections simultaneously.

Randox said the test is capable of processing 324 patient samples, generating 3240 reportable results, in just eight hours.

The company is distributing the tests to more than 40 countries worldwide, but has not received a request for tests from the Department of Health.

A Randox spokesperson said their test in unique as not only can it diagnose coronavirus, it can also differentiate patients with similar symptoms but different infections.

"Since its launch in late January, the new Randox Covid-19 test has been distributed to a wide range of clients across the globe and we have also received considerable interest in our private testing kits which are available to the general public in the UK and Ireland, the spokesperson said.

"With regards to the new test, Randox is actively engaged with more than 40 countries worldwide.

"Whilst the Department of Health has not yet requested any tests for use, we are mindful of the pressures they are under and are appreciative that they will review all viable options.

"Randox always takes care to engage on a cost-effectiveness basis and has the capacity to enhance testing within Northern Ireland’s NHS to conduct Covid-19 testing at an extremely competitive price."

The Department of Health has been contacted for a comment.

Belfast Telegraph