Robin Swann was speaking after the Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced an end to universal free tests for the general public.
22 February 2022
Northern Ireland’s health minister has warned he will not be rushed into making decisions around Covid tests.
Robin Swann was speaking after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced an end to free universal symptomatic and asymptomatic testing for the general public in England from April 1.
DUP MP Sammy Wilson said that Northern Ireland follow England’s lead however Sinn Fein, Alliance and the SDLP have urged caution.
On Tuesday evening Mr Swann emphasised he “will not be rushed into making decisions on Covid testing based on timetables set elsewhere”.
“I have asked officials to draw up policy options based on an appropriate, proportionate approach to testing in NI.
“In the meantime, there will be no changes to the current approach,” he posted on Twitter.
“Looking ahead, testing will continue to have a role, especially in protecting the most vulnerable.
“Further discussions on funding will be required with the UK Government and NI Ministerial colleagues.”
Northern Ireland is currently without a fully functioning Executive following the resignation of First Minister Paul Givan earlier this month which also forced deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill from the joint office.
However other Executive ministers, who remain in post, have indicated their preference to keep free Covid testing.
Finance Minister Conor Murphy told media at Stormont that he wants to see free testing continue, but warned that Stormont will have tough choices to make without funding from Westminster for free testing.
He earlier told the Assembly that the planned three-year Budget to allow departments to draw up their proposals in the years ahead cannot proceed without a fully functioning Executive in place.
“We have to make the decision do we try and provide our own supply and the costs of that in a situation where we can’t take budgetary decisions, where departments only have the baseline that they have to spend in the new financial year because of the absence of an Executive. That makes it infinitely more difficult,” he said.