Covid-19: NI restrictions before Christmas ‘more likely than not’

ireland
Covid-19: Ni Restrictions Before Christmas ‘More Likely Than Not’ Covid-19: Ni Restrictions Before Christmas ‘More Likely Than Not’
Northern Ireland chief scientific adviser Prof Ian Young during a press conference in Stormont. Photo: PA Media
Share this article

By Rebecca Black, PA

More coronavirus restrictions before Christmas will “more likely than not” be recommended to Stormont, the Northern Ireland chief scientific officer has said.

Prof Ian Young said a four week circuit-break in the North slowed the spread of the virus but added that that decline is now slowing.

He said he felt it is more likely than not that further restrictions will be asked for before Christmas.

Emma Dodds (left) and Elizabeth Williams walk their dogs wearing Santa outfits through Belfast city centre. Photo: Liam McBurney/PA

Prof Young, along with the North's chief medical officer, Dr Michael McBride, supply evidence around the transmission of coronavirus to the Stormont Executive.

A decision over how to follow up the circuit-break led to four days of acrimonious exchanges between ministers last week.

The DUP pressed to reopen sections of the economy, while the other four parties wanted to see the circuit-break extended by two weeks before a compromise was reached.

Advertisement

Stormont Health Minister Robin Swann said on Sunday that he is likely to be asking for further coronavirus restrictions before Christmas.

Northern Ireland Health Minister Robin Swann. Photo: PA

“The restrictions that were put in place have had a significant downward effect in terms of the number of cases of the virus, and that is now slowing down and we’re seeing only a very slow decline at present,” Prof Young told the BBC.

“The number of patients who are in hospitals with Covid has fallen to even a lesser extent and that shows firstly that restrictions can have impact but as we’ve always said, the deeper the restrictions are, the longer and more severe the impact will be, so yes I agree with Minister Swann that I think it’s more likely than not that further restrictions will be asked for before Christmas.”

Prof Young said these are “immensely difficult decisions” for ministers.

 

“If it was just about making decisions in relation to the transmission of the virus and nothing else, I think it would be relatively straightforward but the Executive have to weigh up the really important impacts on the economy and the long term damage that causes, along with the significant impacts on society, on mental health,” he said.

Advertisement

“I am confident that the Executive will seriously consider our advice, they will come to a decision and I know that the Chief Medical Officer or myself will not hesitate to come back with further advice if we think that is necessary.

“We want people to be able to enjoy Christmas in a relatively normal way. Given that it’s in the context of the pandemic, I don’t think it can be in a completely normal way but it’s an important time of year. Allowing people to interact more normally will carry risks, everybody will have to be clear about that, but it’s not something that we want to forbid, definitely not.”

Prof Young also said there is a “realistic possibility” that care home residents and health care staff could start receiving the Covid-19 vaccine before the end of the year.

“It’s not going to save us from the winter, it will play an important role in terms of our overall response but I’m very hopeful that by next summer it’ll be fairly widespread,” he said.

Ireland
NI health minister likely to request more restrict...
Read More

The Executive took four days to agree on future restrictions last week.

A majority of ministers backed a proposal that saw the region’s four-week circuit-break lockdown extended by one week followed by a phased reopening of hospitality businesses.

Mr Swann said he reluctantly voted for the compromise deal as ministers had “run out of time” and a failure to strike a deal would have resulted in all the restrictions on hospitality lapsing by default on Friday night.

Read More

Want us to email you top stories each lunch time?

Download our Apps
© BreakingNews.ie 2021, developed by Square1 and powered by PublisherPlus.com