North’s chief medical officer says Covid-19 ‘messing’ with people’s lives
Nine more coronavirus deaths and 549 new cases in Northern Ireland
The overall 7-day Covid figure for Northern Ireland is 198 cases per 100,000 of population
The North’s chief medical officer has said that people must stop “beating” themselves up over the “tough” choices and trade-offs that Covid-19 is forcing on society.
On a day that saw nine more coronavirus deaths in Northern Ireland, Dr Michael McBride reflected on how the pandemic was “messing with people’s lives” while offering hope that new vaccines would end the crisis sometime next year.
Dr McBride said hospitals and staff were very stretched because in this second wave, they were trying to “minimise the downturn on other services” such as treating people with strokes, heart conditions and cancer while “maximising” the treatment of Covid patients.
Doctors were trying to maintain a balance, he said, and warned that without decisions being taken to reduce the intake of Covid patients, “we will have to turn off other services in the health service”.
Dr McBride also expanded on the pressures staff were under when referring to an Irish News report that 15 intensive care unit nurses working in the Belfast hospital trust area had resigned in the past six months.
“This virus has messed with everyone’s life. It has cost too many lives, and it’s messed with many people’s livelihoods. And it has messed with everybody’s head as well,” he said.
“It has made for some very difficult and impossible choices,” said Dr McBride in a briefing he gave with the North’s chief scientific officer Professor Ian Young.
“I’m concerned about the health impact on the health service, on our mental health and well being. I’m concerned about the economic impact, about the wider societal impact,” he added in quite candid comments.
“We’ve talked about how tough it is for our frontline health care workers, it is tough. It’s tough for everybody…It’s tough for everyone across every sector in society.”
And in an implicit reference to the Northern Executive squabbling over whether or not to prolong lockdown restrictions he added, “And it’s also extremely tough for Ministers. So I think we should not be beating ourselves up over the fact that we are considering really, really difficult and challenging issues, issues and trade-offs and considerations that we have never had to face before.”
And while there has been advice in the Republic that people should not travel home to Ireland for Christmas Dr Mc Bride said he believed there were measures such as Covid testing of travellers that would reduce the infection risks so that people could return for the holiday period.
Referring to students coming home to Northern Ireland, he said nothing can be risk free. “But you also need to bear in mind the impact on young people, on their mental health and wellbeing, of being away from home over a long period over the Christmas period. I think it is important we don’t lose sight of that.”
Dr McBride did offer one positive note in referring to how two new Covid-19 vaccinations are in the final stages of trials. “There is hope,” he said. “I’m optimistic that in the spring and into next summer things will be different than they are presently.”
The nine deaths recorded on Tuesday brings the number of Covid-19 deaths in Northern Ireland since the outbreak of the pandemic to 878.
The department also reported 549 new confirmed cases of the virus, taking the total to 47,711.
The hospital bed occupancy rate in the North is now at 100 per cent with 449 patients receiving Covid treatment. Of these 44 are in intensive care units with 35 on ventilators.