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Health Minister must make urgent statement on risk of private tests, says Bradshaw

Alliance Health spokesperson Paula Bradshaw MLA has called on the Health Minister to make a clear statement on the risk involved with private tests taking place in school halls, as such arrangements seem contrary to current coronavirus regulations.

The South Belfast MLA said any gathering in an indoor sitting, such as the first transfer test this Saturday, risks spreading the virus, with children being involved increasing the risk due to the virus potentially spreading between households.

“The increasing evidence the virus spreads through aerosol transmission means it is not sufficient merely to maintain bubbles and two-metre distancing. Anyone sharing an indoor location with an infected person for any length of time is at risk of getting and thus spreading the virus.

“Experts have now warned clearly there is a significantly high risk to any indoor gathering – which is why restaurants, gyms and non-essential retail have been closed, and why we are prohibited from meeting in households. It is therefore entirely inconsistent, and clearly high-risk, to allow large gatherings in an indoor location.

“We must emphasise the risk with this is people who have nothing to do with the tests will be affected by the spread of the virus caused by them occurring. The whole point of all of this is the risk is not just our own to manage – if we take a risk to spread this virus by attending any indoor gathering, others may end up paying the penalty.

“There is an additional risk if people see large gatherings in indoor locations allowed to proceed, they will ask why they cannot just go on socialising indoors too. While I would urge people against drawing that conclusion, making constant and blatant exceptions to the regulations only leads to lower compliance and thus higher spread – and we can see this clearly in the exponential spread since mid-December.

“Ultimately it falls to the Health Minister, whose regulations these are and who said before Christmas the objective is to get people to stay home as in March, to make a clear statement on whether he regards large gatherings in indoor halls to be legal within the regulations, and what the exact risk associated with them is. He must make an urgent statement.”