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Coronavirus: Government agri-lab to test 1,000 Northern Ireland cases a day

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From right: DAERA Minister Edwin Poots and Health Minister Robin Swann with principal scientific officer Ken Lennon at the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute

From right: DAERA Minister Edwin Poots and Health Minister Robin Swann with principal scientific officer Ken Lennon at the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute

Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press E

From right: DAERA Minister Edwin Poots and Health Minister Robin Swann with principal scientific officer Ken Lennon at the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute

One of Northern Ireland's government-run agri-food and biosciences labs is now assisting the health service and testing up to 1,000 coronavirus samples each day.

The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) has announced its Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) will help up the number of tests being completed across the region for those with suspected coronavirus.

It will deliver this service through a newly established consortium with Queen's University Belfast and Ulster University, to support the health service in Northern Ireland and help in the fight against the virus.

Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots, who visited the facility alongside Health Minister Robin Swann, said: "I want to do all I can to help with the fight against Covid-19 and I am pleased to announce that AFBI laboratories and staff will undertake testing in support of our local Health and Social Care (HSC) testing requirements.

"We must all work together, across government, to support the Health Minister and the health trusts in any way we can," he added.

"Subject to us being able to secure the key test kits and reagents, AFBI is able to offer its technical and scientific expertise which will hugely support the HSC efforts in the critical area of diagnostic testing. When fully operational in a number of weeks, it is expected that AFBI may test up to 1,000 samples a day.

"If there is one message I want to reinforce, it is that we are all in this together.

"Through continued co-operation and collaboration and by supporting each other, we will get through this."

Health Minister Robin Swann said "those bodies who have stepped forward to assist with increasing our testing capacity will play a crucial part in enhancing our armoury as we fight against Covid-19".

"I wish to take this opportunity to express my personal thanks to colleagues in AFBI, Queen's and Ulster University, and I also pass on the thanks of my frontline staff and the community as a whole for their efforts," Mr Swann added.

Belfast Telegraph