A reader has contacted us to highlight difficulties they had while accessing the walk in Covid-19 testing site at the Albert Basin in Newry. The reader (Name supplied) wanted to point out that people with mobility difficulties may find it hard to use the facility with the walk involved. Using a drive in facility in another town may be preferable at present.

The walk in Covid-19 testing facility at the Albert Basin in Newry. Photograph: Columba O'Hare
The walk in Covid-19 testing facility at the Albert Basin in Newry. Photograph: Columba O'Hare

The site had a drive in facility in November/ December but it is now a walk in facility. At present Newry doesn't have a drive in testing facility with the nearest one being at Craigavon although the facilities are constantly changing. You can find the latest testing facilities at WWW.PUBLICHEALTH.HSCNI.NET

The reader whose partner has mobility issues but doesn't use a wheel chair at present explains "Unfortunately my partner and myself had to take the Covid 19 test on New Year's Eve. I arranged the appointment by telephone (on the 119 number) rather than booking online.

"This wasn't our first time, as we presented for the same test two weeks previous. On that occasion we used the 'drive in' method which was quite efficient and easily accessed. When booking the test by phone last Thursday we were offered the same testing centre and naturally assumed it would be the same process.... that is... 'drive in testing'. 

"However, after arriving in the pouring rain, we were stopped at the entrance and informed that it was a 'walk in' facility. We were informed that we had to park in the car park opposite the centre and walk to the 'tent' where the test would be done. I explained to the security man that my partner was awaiting a hip replacement and his walking was very bad and that he was in extreme pain but he insisted that we followed his instructions."

Explaining the difficulties the reader said "After parking across the road we discovered the 'testing tent' was at the far end of Saint Christopher's Park which was about a quarter of a mile from the main road. My partner had to hobble in the rain to the tent and was exhausted and in a lot of pain, especially after the return trip. 

"There was no compassion or understanding given when I explained to the security person about my partner's predicament. There were about 6 or 7 people along with ourselves and the place was practically empty. The walkway was cordoned off with railings whilst about 90% of the remaining space was empty and could have facilitated at least 50 or 60 cars.... had it been designed with the public in mind."

We asked the PHA for a comment and in their reply a spokesperson said "The location of COVID-19 testing sites is kept under constant review. In addition to the fixed testing sites, Mobile Test Units (MTU) operate across Northern Ireland and their current locations and how to book a test can be found at WWW.PHA.SITE/CVTESTING

"Mobile testing is an agile capability that allows temporary testing sites to be set up quickly to serve communities on a rolling basis. MTU placements take account of multiple factors including circulating levels of COVID-19 in a locality, response to clusters or outbreaks, the need to support special circumstances such as care homes and universities, and the overall need for testing.

"We would encourage everyone to only book a test if you have the symptoms of COVID-19, which are a new continuous cough, or a high temperature, or a change in sense of smell or taste."


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