A leading Northern Ireland doctor has warned that ending the North’s current four-week lockdown on Friday week as scheduled would be an “act of careless vandalism”.
Dr Tom Black, chairman of the British Medical Association (BMA) in the North issued his warning on Tuesday on a day when 413 patients were being treated for Covid-19 in Northern Ireland hospitals, and on a day when hospitals were at 96 per cent occupancy.
The North’s health department in its daily bulletin on Tuesday also reported that there were six more coronavirus deaths, taking the death toll to 730.
There were 570 new positive cases, 4,629 of them occurring in the past seven days, bringing the total number of cases in the North since the start of the pandemic to 40,179.
The highest incidence of the virus continues to be in the Mid Ulster area which over the past seven days experienced 393 cases per 100,000 of population. Mid Ulster was followed by the Derry and Strabane area with 299 cases and Belfast with 284 cases.
The overall 7-day figure for Northern Ireland is 246 cases per 100,000.
Currently there are 51 patients being treated for Covid-19 in the North’s hospitals with 44 on ventilators.
Dr Black of the BMA, who practices in Derry, strongly counselled the Northern Executive against re-opening the North’s hospitality sector on Friday November 13th because of the pressures on hospitals. It would be an “appalling” move to take “at this stage”, he said.
“We are in the worst pandemic we’ll ever see, in a second wave that is much worse than the first wave, with wards full, intensive care full and huge numbers of outbreaks in care homes,” he told BBC Radio Ulster’s Good Morning Ulster programme.
“It would inevitably result in our health service being overwhelmed, it would inevitably result in increased pain, suffering and death for our community. Can I emphasise this any more strongly?” he added.
“We can’t have hospitality opening during a huge second wave in a pandemic, end of discussion,” said Dr Black.
“We need leadership from our Executive, we’ve had dithering. We need clear decisions, we need firm action,” he said. “They had a very good first wave, they’re having a very bad second wave.”
On Monday First Minister Arlene Foster said the current four week of restrictions will end on Friday week.
Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said they would be “reviewed” at the end of the lockdown period.