COVID-19 testing essential in fight against virus spreading

Test sites open

The Public Health Agency (PHA) has urged people with symptoms of COVID-19 to get tested without delay over Christmas.  

Testing centres across Northern Ireland will remain open throughout the festive season and people can book appointments as normal. Contact tracing will also continue to operate during the holiday period,

Testing remains the only way to know if you have COVID-19 and can help stop the spread of the virus and save lives. If you test positive, it enables you and your close contacts to be alerted to exposure to the virus, the need to self-isolate, and helps to stop the spread the disease to those who are at greatest risk of becoming seriously ill.

Dr Brid Farrell, from the PHA said: “Both testing and contact tracing will be operational daily throughout the festive period so I would encourage the public to engage with these services if required, no matter what day it is.

“The PHA also operates 24/7 public health management advice to a range of professional organisations for all reported infectious diseases, including those that occur in a school setting. This service will continue to operate throughout the Christmas period.

“For all of us, it’s crucially important that if you have symptoms, get tested. If you’re contacted by the contact tracing service, follow the advice, and isolate if you’ve tested positive or are a close contact of a positive case.

“We all want to enjoy Christmas, but it’s important we enjoy it safely – we need to remember that COVID-19 remains a very real threat, and we all still have a responsibility to follow the public health measures, get tested if we’re symptomatic and follow the advice of the contact tracing service, even if they call you on Christmas Day.”

Health Minister Robin Swann welcomed the continued focus on testing and contact tracing over the Christmas period and appealed for anyone with symptoms of COVID-19 to book a test without delay. The Minister said:

“The progress made in vaccination for COVID-19 is welcome, and we look forward with hope to a significant roll-out of the programme in 2021, but we’re not out of the woods yet.

“Until a significant proportion of the population is vaccinated, the risk from COVID-19 infection is still very serious, particularly for the most vulnerable in our society, and unless we can greatly reduce the level of infection, our Health and Social Care services will continue to be under intolerable pressure.

“Testing is an essential part of the fight against COVID-19. If you have symptoms, which are a new continuous cough, or a high temperature, or a change in your sense of taste or smell, do not delay, get a test as soon as you can. It’s vitally important that when waiting for the appointment and when waiting for your test results, you and everyone in your household must self-isolate. You could have the virus and be passing it on to others.”

Booking a test is straightforward – just visit  complete the online form, and you’ll be offered a test at your nearest fixed or mobile testing unit. If you have questions about a test you've booked or are having trouble booking a test, you can call 119.

Dr Farrell continued: “I would also like to reassure the public that there is enough testing capacity in Northern Ireland for those who need it. We have four fixed drive-through test sites in Belfast, Derry/Londonderry, Craigavon and Enniskillen.

“There are also five fixed walk-through test sites, enabling those who do not drive with rapid access to testing on foot.

“In addition, Mobile Test Units operate across Northern Ireland and are short-term testing sites that are mobilised in response to need and/ or to provide additional testing capacity locally.”

For full details on all of the test sites in Northern Ireland and more about booking a test, visit


Notes to editors:

  • Dr Brid Farrell is Assistant Director of Service Development, Safety and Quality at the PHA.
  • The Contact Tracing Service is operational daily from 8am-9pm with the exception of Christmas Day, where operational hours will be 10am-4pm.
  • The operational hours for the testing facilities are:

Testing opening hours