A Belfast Councillor has urged the Department of Health to “quickly upscale” testing for COVID-19 amid fears of the virus’ spread.

SDLP representative Carl Whyte said that testing must be increased well beyond the current level of 800 per day.

Cllr Whyte said that the current departmental strategy “makes no sense” given that Covid-19 testing kits are manufactured locally by Crumlin-based firm Randox Laboratories.

“I think the Department of Health needs to quickly upscale the level of tests well beyond the 800 per day,” he stressed.

“I think it’s all the more important given that a couple of miles away from Belfast in Crumlin, Randox make, and have been shipping, tests for Coronavirus to China.

“It makes no sense to me that people here are not being given the chance to get tested.

“I have heard anecdotal evidence that people who are ill are phoning doctors, but are being told to stay at home and are not being tested. It needs to happen and it needs to happen very quickly.”

The North Belfast Councillor also expressed concern about social distancing practices in the city.

“What concerns me is that I don’t think Belfast is really getting ‘full marks’ when it comes to social distancing,” he said.

“Up and down the Antrim Road there were bars, pubs, coffee shops and other shops open today. While there is a certain amount of social distancing it doesn’t seem to be the level that’s required. So I think that more testing will increase the awareness of how much Coronavirus is actually here. People will then get the message about social distancing and self-isolating if they feel symptoms.”

Cllr Whyte dismissed suggestions that the Stormont Executive’s actions to tackle the Coronavirus are being led by science.

“I don’t think the Executive is being led by anything apart from confusion,” he insisted.

“I think that people are rightly shrugging their shoulders because you’re hearing conflicting messages every single day.”