Healthcare workers in Northern Ireland have been betrayed by Stormont’s “negligent” decision not to impose a fresh lockdown, a senior doctor said.
The British Medical Association's Northern Ireland chair Dr Tom Black warned that hospitals are over-capacity.
Circuit-breaker restrictions have been extended by one week, with partial reopening of hospitality next Friday, following a political wrangle which has exposed divisions between Sinn Féin and the DUP.
Doctors: please share your experiences with us of the second wave of #COVID19, winter pressures and how they're affecting your workplace. Every submission via our portal will help us give you a louder voice as we go into the difficult winter months ahead https://t.co/vpVDqOcKym pic.twitter.com/U80F7fT4rg
— BMA Northern Ireland (@BMA_NI) November 11, 2020
Dr Black said: “The national response to a situation like that would be to bring in a further lockdown, to make that more severe, yet politicians have decided to ease restrictions over the next two weeks and open up society.
“That decision is incompetent and negligent and saying to the healthcare workers that ‘we are abandoning you’.
“If the healthcare workers thought that they had been betrayed by the Executive, I think that would be a reasonable stance to take.”
A total of 78 deaths involving Covid-19 occurred in the region in the week from October 31st to November 6th, and the overall toll has reached 1,141, official statistics showed on Friday.
On Thursday, at the 11th hour, a deal was struck by the Executive to end the deadlock over exiting the current coronavirus circuit-breaker.
Update: I didn’t seek the last four days but a fair and balanced agreement reached with the support of the Health Minister. pic.twitter.com/6U2jVD5vYw
— Arlene Foster #WeWillMeetAgain (@ArleneFosterUK) November 12, 2020
Hair and beauty salons and premises without an alcohol licence like cafes and coffee shops can reopen next Friday, with hours restricted to 8pm.
Driving lessons can resume by appointment only.
Restaurants, pubs and hotels can lift shutters on November 27th.
Pubs and bars will be permitted to sell sealed off-sales from November 20th.
Northern Ireland Hotels Federation (NIHF) chief executive Janice Gault said her sector had lost out.
Turnover is forecast to fall to less than a third of 2019 and the extended six-week closure will see a loss of sales in the region of £70 million (€78 million).
She added: “From a hotel perspective, it has been a bleak month with frustration morphing into exasperation over the last week.
“The air of despondency at the start of the process has been replaced with one of disbelief and distress.”
Our health service is under serious pressure
Our hospitals are at 101% capacity and our health workers are exhausted
The Executive has reached a democratic decision, we respect that decision but it is not something Sinn Féin could support
Our priority remains protecting lives pic.twitter.com/CYLcRtNRvx
— Michelle O’Neill (@moneillsf) November 12, 2020
Sinn Féin voted against the successful proposal because it ran contrary to the guidance from Stormont’s medical and scientific advisers to extend the circuit-break in its entirety for two weeks.
It was outnumbered around the ministerial table as ministers faced mounting public criticism over the delay.
The DUP, Ulster Unionists and Alliance Party voted for the breakthrough proposals.