There has been a tenfold increase in the number of people attending Northern Ireland’s Covid-19 testing centres, the regional manager has said.
It follows the widening of those who can take the test by appointment at one of three centres across the region.
They receive the result within 48 hours.
A partnership involving Serco, Deloitte and the Public Health Agency has opened three centres in Belfast, Craigavon and Londonderry.
According to the department, more than 5,000 samples had been taken at the three centres by May 1.
However, overall there had been a total of 28,425 laboratory tests carried out by the same date, which could include tests carried out at other venues, including hospitals.
Regional manager Chris Kelly said they have seen a significant uplift since testing was opened to all key workers.
“Over the last week the numbers have increased tenfold from where we first started now that testing has been opened up to all key sectors and key workers who can go on to .gov site and register to get tested at one of the three sites in Northern Ireland,” he said.
“It’s a self-testing site so everyone feels safe. What we have tried to do is understand that the people who are arriving there are probably a little bit nervous because they are going to get a self test, so we’ve tried to make sure the staff are able to reassure people and keep everyone nice and calm.
“It supports people with businesses as well as key workers in getting back to work and making sure that when they get back to work they have their key staff in place, because they can come and get tested and get a result within 48 hours. Then they know whether they can go back to work or if they need to self isolate.”
Mr Kelly is the manager of the Aurora Leisure Centre in Belfast, but volunteered his services to help in the pandemic.
He manages the three testing centres in Northern Ireland, which also include the City of Derry Rugby Club and Craigavon MoT centre.
Many of the staff volunteering have also come from Aurora.
“All the staff at the Belfast centre have come from Aurora, they were staff that were to be furloughed and they then all volunteered to come over and work at the test centre because they thought they could contribute even in a small way in helping people,” he said.
“It has been a significant change of pace and learning different processes but working with people whether it be in the SSE car park or whether it be in a leisure centre, it’s about making people feel at ease, and that’s what the staff have been really good at.”
The number of deaths of patients who had tested positive for Covid-19 had risen to 376 on Saturday, an overnight increase of 11, recorded so far by the Department of Health.