Northern Ireland’s ‘anti-authority’ mindset contributing to high Covid rates - doctor

Many young people are treating rumours on social media as ‘fact’, Dr Tom Black says

People queue  at a vaccination centre  in Belfast. The latest figures published by Stormont’s Department of Health show that 27,800 people across Northern Ireland had Covid-19 from  August 22nd-August 28th.  Photograph: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

People queue at a vaccination centre in Belfast. The latest figures published by Stormont’s Department of Health show that 27,800 people across Northern Ireland had Covid-19 from August 22nd-August 28th. Photograph: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

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An anti-authoritarian psyche is contributing to Northern Ireland’s high Covid-19 infection and death rates, a leading doctor has said.

Dr Tom Black, who has a GP practice in Derry’s Bogside and chairs Northern Ireland’s branch of the British Medical Council, told The Irish Times that many young people were learning about the disease on social media and were not being “smart” in their approach to it.

“There is certainly something in Northern Ireland, ” he said. “They don’t listen to the news, they don’t read newspapers, they don’t listen to the radio. The news they get is through their Instagram and Facebook.

“A rumour becomes news, becomes fact and they develop their attitude to the vaccine through that,” he said, adding that the lower vaccination rate among the North’s younger population means infections spread more.

The latest figures published by Stormont’s Department of Health show that 27,800 people across Northern Ireland had Covid-19 from August 22nd-August 28th.

“There is also a thing in Northern Ireland, there is an anti-authoritarian, an anti-government thing, which runs through society here, particularly on the nationalist side,” Dr Black said.

“Government has always been a difficult concept for the Northern Irish, I think, because of the history of unionism and nationalism. There is always that issue that you can move smoothly through the laws.”

Covid-19 figures

The seven-day average death rate from Covid-19 in the North per 100,000 people is more than twice the UK’s and 10 times higher than in the Republic.

Northern Ireland’s Department of Health on Friday reported nine further deaths of patients with Covid-19 and 1,248 more cases. It said there were 409 Covid-positive patients in hospital, 46 of whom were in intensive care.

The Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (Nisra), which obtains data from death certificates, on Friday said 52 Covid-19 fatalities were recorded in the week from August 21st-27th, bringing the total to 3,200.

Dr Black said higher rates of social deprivation were responsible for the North having a “poor uptake of vaccination” when compared with other places.

“Working in the Bogside, it is very short-term. Patients want the problem solved today. Whereas more middle-class people want to solve a stroke that might happen in 30 years’ time,” he said.

“There is a difference between the social groups. The more socially deprived are more short-term. There is less thought for the future... it is just a different way of living when you come from an area of social deprivation.”

He also said the absence of a clear steer on the need for vaccination certificates from Stormont was an issue. “I think that would act as an incentive for young ones to get the vaccine, if they knew they had to get it [in order to do specific things].”

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