Stormont’s chief scientific adviser said that as part of an effort to reduce the isolation time for overseas passengers, the Covid-19 test at British airports may be piloted within three weeks.
Professor Ian Young warned that a negative result after arrival does not rule out someone who has recently contracted the disease.
Therefore, one option is to repeat the test for five to eight days.
He said: “Although the negative test performed at the airport has caused great public concern, it is definitely not a safe method.
“If the person is infected within two or three days before returning to Northern Ireland, they may have the virus, but will be tested negative at the airport, get false assurances, and may continue to spread.”
He will meet with authorities in other parts of the UK next week to discuss the pilot plan.
“We have been discussing… about conducting airport tests on arriving passengers to estimate the number of infected pilots.”
He hopes that such an initiative can begin in the next three to four weeks, but this issue is led by the British authorities.
“These data will also provide possible considerations for reducing isolation time in the future.”
Professor Young said that the authorities cannot make exceptions to the self-quarantine rule for regions in countries on the high-infection watch list.
“We have been worried that if we were to introduce regional differences for an overseas country, it would be relatively easy for someone to return to Northern Ireland or the United Kingdom via London or Dublin through a short trip in the country concerned. The country is considered a safe part of the country.”
He testified to the Stormont Health Commission on Thursday.
“It is difficult to know exactly how inbound tourists travel overseas, and the prevalence in the region varies greatly.”
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