Covid-19: 763 new cases in North amid calls for all-island approach

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There have been 763 new Covid-19 cases in Northern Ireland in the last 24-hour reporting period, the region’s Department of Health has announced.

There were four deaths reported on Thursday, taking the toll recorded by the Department of Health to 606.

6,394 new positive cases have been notified in the last seven days, with an average of 913 cases reported a day.

There are 201 patients with Covid-19 currently being treated in hospital in the North, with 24 in intensive care.

It comes as a leading epidemiologist based in the Republic has called for an all-island approach to the pandemic, saying “you could bet your life” one would be used if the disease affected animals.

If this was an animal disease affecting sheep or chicken or cattle, you could bet your life that there would be an integrated approach North and South.

Calls for a singular approach in how the governments in Dublin and Belfast respond to the crisis have been growing after both jurisdictions saw record numbers of cases this week.

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A record 2,312 cases were recorded on the island on Wednesday – 1,217 in Northern Ireland and 1,095 in the Republic.

Dr Gabriel Scally, president of epidemiology and public health at the Royal Society of Medicine, blasted the “ridiculous situation” on the island, saying it was “disturbing” that a joint approach was not being taken.

Disturbing

Dr Scally, who was born in Belfast, said: “If this was an animal disease affecting sheep or chicken or cattle, you could bet your life that there would be an integrated approach North and South.

“And a huge amount of joint working and joint testing. That is not happening. It’s very, very disturbing.”

He told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland: “Several people from the very beginning, myself included, said the best way of dealing with this was on an all-island basis. That has never happened. It needs to be a properly integrated effort North and South.”

It looks like they’re not doing the job of contact tracing properly and breaking those chains of transmission.

Dr Scally criticised the “secrecy” around the testing and tracking in Northern Ireland and suggested that many cases were not being found.

“It looks like they’re not doing the job of contact tracing properly and breaking those chains of transmission,” he said.

In response to Dr Scally’s comments, Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney later agreed that an all-island approach had worked in the past for animal diseases.

“He is right. Gabriel Scally talks a lot of sense when he’s on your programme,” he said, before adding that Covid-19 is “far more complicated”.

The governments in Dublin and Belfast are regularly in touch, he said, as are the two chief medical officers.

He added: “On the cross-border issue, there is discussion in terms of tracing cross border. We now have a Covid app in both North and South that talks to each other.

“We are doing a number of things on a cross-border basis, but we need to do more. Our Government is very anxious to do more – to try to have a collective approach both North and South.”

The row comes amid a new ban across the Republic on visits to other houses, with Level 4 restrictions also being introduced in the border counties as the North moves to shut schools for two weeks and pubs and restaurants for four in a strict “circuit breaker” lockdown.

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