And so the confusion around Covid rules, regulations, guidelines, mitigations (call them what you like) continues.
On the one hand we’re told to take every precaution, take lateral flow tests before we go out, but the options for going out are diminishing as nightclubs close.
Yes, that means when we want to visit relatives as well, of course, but even that is now becoming problematic.
It’s hit and miss whether you can pick up your lateral flow tests in chemists or high street retailers.
The majority of people are trying to do what’s right — but to be able to do what’s right we need the tools for the job.
If we’re not able to pick up the box of testing kits, do we sit in and wait their delivery, or do we just get on with our lives?
For the messaging to be successful, the supply of testing kits needs to match the demand.
It’s no surprise that the number of people attending for the more advanced PCR tests has rocketed over Christmas. More people are taking their home tests, more are therefore testing positive and requiring a PCR, but there remains a significant area of doubt as to when we need to take the PCR route. As more get tested that number will rise.
The Public Health Agency has now revised the protocol to “protect the testing system in Northern Ireland and ensure availability of testing for those who need it”.
It shows the system is coming under pressure.
It’s worth repeating that now fully-vaccinated close contacts will no longer have to take a PCR test. Instead they will be advised to take a lateral flow test as soon as possible.
They will have to continue to take daily lateral flow tests until the 10th day after the last date of contact with the positive case. If the test is positive at any time during the 10 days, the PHA has advised they should arrange a PCR test. Unvaccinated people will have to continue to self-isolate for 10 days as before.
This will only work if the home tests are available.
A spike in cases was predicted several weeks ago. Would it not have been obvious, particularly as many wished to visit relatives over Christmas, that there would be a spike in demand for home tests?
Gerard Green, chief executive of Community Pharmacy NI, is calling on the Department of Health to increase their supply.
“At the moment demand is outstripping supply,” he tells us today.
It remains a testing time all round. It’s been said before, but would more preparation not make things a whole lot easier?