Free Rapid COVID-19 tests available from over 500 local pharmacies

Date published: 26 October 2021

Health Minister Robin Swann has outlined the increased accessibility of Rapid Tests and also highlighted the importance of regular Rapid Testing to help stop the spread of Covid-19 this winter.

Pictured launching the Pharmacy Collect service for rapid COVID-19 tests are (L-R) Chief Pharmaceutical Officer, Cathy Harrison; Health Minister Robin Swann; Pharmacist Ryan McCullough, and Vice-Chair of Community Pharmacy NI, Peter Rice.

With around one in three people with Covid-19 showing no symptoms, identifying cases early is important in helping to limit the spread of the virus. Regular Rapid Testing can help identify positive cases of Covid-19 and enables people with the virus to take steps to stop them giving it to others.

Minister Swann said: “Even if you have already been vaccinated, regular Rapid Testing is important in limiting the spread of the virus, helping to protect those who are vulnerable, as well our health and social care system.

“For those who don’t already test on a regular basis, I would encourage you to avail of the free Rapid Tests that are available and make testing part of your routine. Tests are now readily available for collection right across Northern Ireland and can also be ordered online for delivery straight to your door.”

Free Rapid Tests are now available for:

  • Collection at over 550 sites across Northern Ireland, including 504 community pharmacies
  • Online home delivery
  • Workforce Testing Schemes

Alongside vaccination and contact tracing, testing is one of the key pillars of protection from the virus. Also known as Lateral Flow Device tests or antigen tests, Rapid Tests provide a result within 30 minutes at home.

The Minister added: “It’s important to report every test result, positive, negative or void. This data helps us understand where COVID is spreading and allows us to tackle the virus more effectively.”

More than 40,000 tests were distributed by community pharmacies in the first four weeks of the service launching in September.

Cathy Harrison, Chief Pharmaceutical Officer said: “Community pharmacies have been a beacon of support in our communities throughout the pandemic. I would urge anyone who hasn’t started using Rapid Tests to ask for a test kit on their next visit to a community pharmacy.”

Matt Wills, Programme Director of the Rapid Testing Team said: “Rapid Tests are easy to access, simple to use and if you take a test first thing in the morning, your result will be ready before you leave the house. It is recommended that people should do a Rapid Test twice a week to check if they have the virus.”

Research by NHS Test and Trace shows Rapid Tests are 99.9% accurate. That means for every 1,000 lateral flow tests carried out, there is less than one false positive result. The tests have undergone rigorous testing and evaluation to ensure they are reliable.

Notes to editors: 

  1. Rapid Tests should only be used by those with no symptoms of COVID-19. Anyone with symptoms should self-isolate and book a PCR test instead. Find out more about Rapid Testing at
  2. Rapid Tests are available to anyone who wants or needs to test in Northern Ireland.
  3. Rapid Testing twice a week is strongly recommended for anyone over the age of 12, if you:


  • Have a large number of close contacts
  • Spend time in a crowd or a busy public place
  • Socialise in a group
  • Will have contact with someone who is clinically vulnerable
  • Can’t get the vaccine due to your age or a health condition


  1. Businesses across Northern Ireland are introducing Rapid Testing schemes to keep their employees and customers safe.  Organisations with more than 10 employees or volunteers can set up a Workforce Testing Scheme to access free Rapid Tests by submitting an Expression of Interest (EOI). Organisations with less than 10 employees or volunteers can establish shared workforce schemes with other organisations, or encourage use of the home delivery service or collection sites.
  1. Anyone over the age of 18 who cannot access Rapid Tests through their employer or place of education can:
  1. For media enquiries please contact DoH Press Office by email:
  2. Follow us on twitter @healthdpt
  3. The Executive Information Service operates an out-of-hours service for media enquiries only, between 1800hrs and 0800hrs Monday to Friday and at weekends and public holidays. The duty press officer can be contacted on 028 9037 8110.

Share this page

Back to top