The North’s chief scientific and medical officers have warned of an increase in the number of coronavirus deaths if the public doesn’t adhere to the regulations to limit the spread of the pandemic.
On a day when 669 new cases and one more death were recorded in Northern Ireland the north's chief scientific officer Prof Ian Young predicted a rise in deaths appeared almost inevitable.
“We are in the lag period, I think, between the increase in hospital admissions and, unfortunately, the increase in deaths,” said Prof Young on Tuesday.
“So, it is almost inevitable that as hospital admissions increase, as patients in ICU increase, which we are seeing now, unfortunately and sadly the number of deaths will increase as well,” he said.
“We don’t want to wait for that. We want everybody to change their behaviours now so that we minimise the extent to which that will happen.”
The North’s chief medical officer Dr Michael McBride in a joint Zoom press conference with Prof Young, supported that analysis.
“If we don’t do what we all need to do at this present moment in time after the next couple of weeks it is inevitable we will see more deaths,” he said.
They issued their warnings as the North's Department of Health reported 669 new cases of the virus in its daily bulletin issued on Tuesday afternoon, taking the total to 15,359.
One more coronavirus death was recorded, bringing the total to 585 since the beginning of the pandemic in Northern Ireland.
In the past seven days there were 4,005 virus cases in the North. Over that period there were 962 cases in the Belfast City Council area and 876 cases in Derry and Strabane where more stringent coronavirus conditions apply.
Currently, there are 67 patients being treated for the virus in Northern Ireland hospitals, with 13 of them in intensive care units and eight on ventilators.
Northern Executive Ministers indicated over recent days that in the coming period a “circuit breaker” may be introduced in Northern Ireland – an increase in restrictions across the North over a possible two- or three-week period to try to limit the spread of the virus.
The scientific and medical officers also indicated that such a “circuit breaker” was inevitable. Prof Young said that the virus circulated more widely in winter.
“It is increasingly likely and more likely than not that further restrictions will be required over the winter to get us through to spring,” agreed Dr McBride.
It will be for the Northern Executive, based on the advice from Dr McBride and Prof Young, to decide on additional restrictions. Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said she wanted to “avoid additional restrictions” but “ unfortunately it appears they are going to be necessary”.