Staff working in care homes across Northern Ireland are to undergo Covid-19 tests on a weekly basis.
Health Minister Robin Swann confirmed the move, saying regular testing of staff will increase from once every two weeks to once a week.
This should commence as soon as possible, rolling out from next week.
Care homes should now progress arrangements to increase testing of their staff to a once a week cycle, the Minister advised.
Mr Swann again underlined that care homes remain on the front line in the battle against the virus.
“I am pleased today to be able to confirm that testing is being made available to care home staff on a weekly basis. I have asked officials to ensure this takes effect right across the sector as soon as possible.
“I do not underestimate the logistical challenges this will bring, but I have no doubt it is the right thing to do.
“The expansion of testing is one of the most important weapons in our continuing battle with Covid-19.”
The Minister added: “Our care homes – like the rest of the health and social care system – are under considerable pressure. I acknowledge the dedication and hard work of staff in our homes and also the support being provided to homes by the Trusts, PHA and HSCB.
“No one should be taking any false assurance from the welcome drop in positive cases we have seen in Northern Ireland in recent days. The system is now dealing with the serious consequences of infections acquired over recent weeks.
“The more prevalent the virus is in our community, the greater the risk of it spreading into our care homes.”