Chair Of British Medical Association's NI Council Brands NI Reopening Plan 'Complete Madness'
Chair of the British Medical Association's (BMA) Northern Ireland council Doctor Tom Black has branded the Stormont decision to lift COVID-19 rules in Northern Ireland despite mounting pressures on th...
Chair of the British Medical Association's (BMA) Northern Ireland council Doctor Tom Black has branded the Stormont decision to lift COVID-19 rules in Northern Ireland despite mounting pressures on the health service "complete madness".
As reported by rte.ie, Black said that the relaxations planned for the end of this month will ultimately lead to more COVID-19 deaths, and criticised the move as "stupidity" as he warned that the health system in the region is facing its "worst crisis ever" this winter as it deals with the "triple whammy" of COVID-19, winter pressures and spiralling waiting lists.
On October 31, nightclubs are due to reopen in Northern Ireland, social distancing rules that currently limit capacity in bars and restaurants will move from regulation to guidance, people will also be able to move freely around hospitality premises including being able to stand at the bar for a drink, and indoor dancing will resume across the hospitality sector.
Following those decisions being taken at the start of the October, ministers have now reportedly at agreed to proceed with the moves, and have reportedly also confirmed that nightclubbers will not have to wear masks when dancing or in settings that involved eating or drinking.
Further Black Statements
Black reportedly told BBC Radio Ulster, "If you open up the nightclubs to young people who aren't vaccinated, they will increase the infection rate, that will increase admissions to hospital, that will increase mortality,", and reportedly said that the planned relaxations are "complete madness and stupidity".
Black reportedly said, "We've eased the restrictions for that group of people in our community who have failed to become vaccinated.
"We have 25% of the 18 to 29 group non-vaccinated, 21% of the 30 to 39s, and what do we do with them? We say 'you know what, you can go out, you can eat, you can drink, you can dance, forget about masks, forget about social distancing'.
"'You're the group that are at highest risk, please go out and spread the infection, and then take it home to your granny'.
"That's the medical professionals' response to this."
Black reportedly said, "We're being overwhelmed at the moment. This is not the time to ease restrictions, this is the time to turn to those people who aren't vaccinated and say 'you're letting us down, you're betraying your friends, your relatives and your granny, you're out there, mixing, spreading the infection'.
"It's seeping through into the older people and people are landing into hospital and dying because our young folk won't get vaccinated - that's not good enough."
Black reportedly said, "We're entering into the worst crisis ever - this winter is going to be much worse than last winter.
"Why? Because the triple whammy of COVID, the winter pressures, the waiting lists. And we have to tighten our belt, do the right thing and not indulge in wishful thinking."
As reported by The Belfast Telegraph, Black described the Executive's latest easing of restrictions as "schizophrenic", saying that it risks further deaths at a time when the health service was already overwhelmed.
Music Promoter Statements
As also reported by The Belfast Telegraph, a music promoter has called for a balanced debate on easing restrictions in Northern Ireland.
Joe Dougan, who reportedly promoted the Custom House Square gigs during the summer, reportedly said that the hospitality sector deserves credit for sticking to safety measures.
Love & Death General Manager Statements
As reported by The Irish News, the general manager of Belfast nightclub Love & Death, Sean Duffy, has expressed concerns about having to police COVID-19 entry checks in the absence of a mandatory passport system.
Duffy reportedly said that he feels that Stormont is "passing the buck" on to the nightclub sector ahead of the planned reopening on October 31.
The Executive has reportedly advised venues to introduce their own COVID-19 entry checks but has reportedly stopped short of bringing in a mandatory system similar to the one operating in the Republic of Ireland.
The issue has reportedly divided the administration, with the SDLP and Alliance Party reportedly calling for legally enforceable COVID-19 passports for nightlife venues, and work is reportedly continuing on developing an official certification system for Northern Ireland, but First Minister Paul Givan and Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill have reportedly insisted that they do not want to compel the sector to enforce mandatory checks at this point, reportedly preferring a "partnership approach".
Meanwhile, the British Medical Association (BMA) has reportedly questioned whether the reopening of nightclubs should even go ahead as scheduled, given the continuing high rates of COVID-19 transmission in the community and the mounting pressures on the health service.
Duffy reportedly said that his venue has yet to make a decision on whether to make proof of vaccination or COVID-19 status a requirement of entry from October 31.
Duffy reportedly told the PA news agency, "I think if we do decide to it’s going be very tough to police.
"Do our security staff do it, do I do it, do I get a medical professional in to do it, who does it? Are the guys up on the hill going to come down and show us how to do it?"
Duffy reportedly said that he has concerns about the concept of customers having to prove vaccination status on entry, but reportedly added that if such a system is to operate it should be a "legal requirement".
"It feels a little bit of passing the buck almost," he reportedly said of the Executive's approach.
Duffy reportedly said, "I was in Dublin a few weeks ago and COVID passports or certification scans down there work very, very well and are very easy - very, very quick to get in and out."
Duffy reportedly said that an unregulated system will be open to abuse, and, "I don't think it should be forced on the industry that has been first to close and last to open to enforce them (to ask) 'Are you vaccinated, are you not vaccinated?'
"It's just going to cause a bottleneck, it's going to cause disruption."
Duffy reportedly added, "If someone comes in without a mask and says 'Sorry, I'm exempt from it', how do I challenge them? Legally, I can't.
"So how do we do the same with COVID tests?
"I could take a COVID test, for talk's sake, and it be negative and hand it to someone else (to show at the door). It would be false proof but on a point of contact it's proof.
"Is it a picture? Do they bring it with them? Is it a certification that comes with the NI gov app? How do we check? I think it’s a real tough one to police."
Duffy reportedly said that he feels that Stormont has provided clarity on other reopening mitigations, such as where masks should be worn, and reportedly also acknowledged that ministers have had a "tough time" navigating the pandemic and overall have done a "fair enough job".
Love & Death has reportedly been able to operate as a bar since restrictions on the hospitality sector eased earlier in 2021, but social distancing has reportedly reduced capacity by almost half and customers have had to remain seated.
Those restrictions will all lift on October 31 and the upstairs part of the venue will be able to operate as a nightclub again for the first time since the pandemic began.
Duffy reportedly said that the sector has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, and,"It really has had quite an impact on revenues, as most of our hospitality neighbours have had over the last 18 months as well.
"It's been a difficult trading time for us all.
"When you're looking at venues closing down throughout the pandemic, bigger venues and more secure venues than an owner-operator venue like ourselves, then, yeah, the stress is always there to make sure the business gets from one week to the next, and that we're viable to be open."
Duffy reportedly added, "Come Sunday [October 31], I hope they come in their droves, I really do.
"I think the whole way through the night it's going be a super high that people are here enjoying themselves, our DJ is playing tunes, people are up again, giving them a real feel good factor.
"I haven't had a dance in 18 months - it will be a happy time to see people up enjoying themselves again."
© 2021 Hospitality Ireland – your source for the latest industry news. Article by Dave Simpson. Click subscribe to sign up for the Hospitality Ireland print edition.