Coronavirus: Lockdowns may be used in NI to curb disease

North’s Department of Heath reports five more deaths and 1,020 further infections

A total of 379 people are receiving hospital treatment in the North, with 33 in intensive care. File photograph: PA

A total of 379 people are receiving hospital treatment in the North, with 33 in intensive care. File photograph: PA

 

Northern Ireland’s Minister for Health has refused to rule out further lockdowns to halt the spread of Covid-19, saying it would be “irresponsible . . . to take anything off the table.”

Robin Swann’s stance was echoed by the Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill. She said there had to be a “steady, cautious approach . . . everything has to remain on the table given the uncertain nature of the pandemic”.

Ms O’Neill returned to Stormont for the first time on Monday since being diagnosed with Covid-19.

“It was quite a frightening experience, it completely floored me” and was unlike anything she had experienced before, she said.

She told reporters at Stormont that she feared she would have to be hospitalised and it had taken “the best part of three weeks to get back on to my feet”.

Ms O’Neill urged anyone who had not yet been inoculated to do so. “I’m so grateful for the vaccine. I can’t imagine what I would have went through if I didn’t have the vaccine,” she said.

The North’s Department of Heath reported five more deaths from the virus on Monday and 1,020 further infections. A total of 379 people are receiving hospital treatment in the North, with 33 in intensive care.

Ms O’Neill said it is “clear the winter months ahead are going to be difficult” and there is already a “difficult picture within the health service”.

Ministers are due to discuss winter planning for the pandemic at Thursday’s meeting of the Executive.

“We have to take decisions. I believe we need to be cautious, we need to make progress of course but we need to move very cautiously as we go through the next number of months if we’re going to protect . . . ourselves.” said Ms O’Neill.

“It’s not just in terms of the Covid crisis and the pressure in our hospitals, it’s the knock-on impact that it has across our health service for those patients requiring treatment for many other conditions.” *

Organ donation

Meanwhile a Bill to change the law on organ donation in Northern Ireland passed its second Assembly stage by 69 votes to six following a debate on Monday afternoon.

The Organ and Tissue Donation (Deemed Consent) Bill would make all adults potential donors unless they specifically opt out.

During the debate several Assembly members warned that the legislation could be jeopardised if the DUP follows through with its threat to withdraw from Stormont in protest over the Northern Ireland protocol.

Mr Swann, who introduced the Bill, said “I don’t think we can afford that to happen on a number of pieces of legislation, never mind just on organ donation here in Northern Ireland.” Additional reporting - PA

* This article was amended on September 21st, 2021.