A new ‘pharmacy collect’ service has launched in Northern Ireland, with around 420 already signed up.
The new service enables people to collect free rapid Covid-19 tests from selected community pharmacies across the country.
Members of the public who collect these tests will be expected to take them at home.
It is hoped that the new service will mean more people can get tested and in turn help ‘society return to normality’, the health minister Robin Swann said.
‘One in three people who have Covid-19 have no symptoms, or are pre-symptomatic. The introduction of the pharmacy collect service will significantly increase the range of locations that people who require rapid tests can access them’, he added.
More than 90% of pharmacies in England have been offering rapid Covid tests since March.
A similar service for community pharmacies in Scotland and Wales has been in action since June and July respectively.
Cathy Harrison, chief pharmaceutical officer in NI said: ‘The contribution of community pharmacy teams to the Covid-19 pandemic response has been invaluable and the introduction of the new pharmacy collect service will improve access to testing for the general public.
She added: ‘This is another step forward to people getting their normal lives back. Many people with Covid-19 have mild or no symptoms, but they can continue to spread the virus. Rapid tests, in conjunction with the wearing of masks, regular hand washing and social distancing, can help to prevent onward transmission of the virus.’
As it stands, over 1.2 million people in NI have received their first vaccine, and over 1.1 million people have been double jabbed.
In July, a small number of community pharmacies in NI begun delivering the Moderna vaccine.
Since the sector started to administer the AstraZeneca vaccine back in March, they have delivered over 100,000 jabs to local populations.