NI Executive Urged To Produce Timeline For Lifting Of Remaining Restrictions In NI
Business groups have urged the Northern Ireland Executive to "start giving more light and less tunnel" and produce a timeline to lift all of the remaining COVID-19 pandemic-related restrictions in Northern Ireland, warning ministers that Stormont cannot afford its own furlough.
As reported by The Belfast Telegraph, the call came after Northern Ireland Health Minister Robin Swann warned of a "nightmare scenario" this winter, with overcrowded emergency departments being forced to close their doors and 999 calls going unanswered, and also follows yesterday's news that Northern Ireland First Minister Paul Givan has said that he does not expect major changes to be made to Northern Ireland's COVID-19 rules at a meeting of the Executive that is scheduled to take place this week.
Swann reportedly would not be drawn on the potential easing of rules at the Executive meeting and reportedly did not rule out the possibility of a lockdown or circuit breaker to ease pressures on the National Health Service (NHS).
Industry Chiefs Statements
However, the chiefs of Retail NI, Hospitality Ulster and the Belfast Chamber of Commerce - Glyn Roberts, Colin Neill and Simon Hamilton, respectively - reportedly said that the business community is “looking with desperation” as restrictions are phased out in the Republic of Ireland and Great Britain.
The three chiefs reportedly added, "The Executive needs to produce a realistic timeline of safely lifting the restrictions to give our members certainty and stability.
"We have heard a lot of unhelpful speculation about a fourth lockdown, which has caused our members and their staff undue concern and anxiety.
"With furlough ending and no further money from the Treasury for support grants, how does the Executive propose to fund this? The Executive needs to start giving more light and less tunnel in their message to business and the wider community.
"Those remaining people who have not received the vaccination need to do so, for their own health, for their families and for their own community."
Swann reportedly provided a pandemic update on Wednesday September 22 alongside Belfast Trust chief executive Doctor Cathy Jack, who reportedly said that health and social care are "besieged" and staff are burnt out.
Jack reportedly explained that increased demand for urgent and unscheduled care, coupled with a sustained high level of infections, has led to "unmatched pressures" on emergency departments (EDs), and reportedly said, "The number of patients waiting more than 12 hours in an ED increased by 260% in July compared with same period last year. ED crowding in mid-September was at levels usually experienced at the peak of winter."
Jack reportedly said that unvaccinated individuals account for over 70% of COVID-19 patients who are in intensive care, despite the group forming less than 12% of the adult population.
Jack reportedly said that the NHS is grappling with "monumental challenges" like never before, and, "If COVID is allowed to spread freely and the vaccination rate does not rise beyond 90%, we will face a grim winter.
"The best thing we can do to help the health service is to vaccinate the remaining 12% of the adult population. If this happens, we would be in a better and safer place. Every single jab counts."
Swann reportedly warned that the system does not have the capacity to cope with current levels of need, and reportedly said, "We must guard against giving the impression that the COVID threat is fading or that the pandemic is petering out.
"Carefully easing restrictions is one thing, a free-for-all is another. If all caution is dropped, our health service crisis will deepen. It would, in all likelihood, be overwhelmed.
"In a nightmare scenario, it could even mean one of our EDs so overcrowded and patient safety so compromised they could have to close the doors, and that could lead to ambulances unable to respond to emergency 999 calls in the community.
"That's what overwhelmed could look like, so we must not let that happen.
"As minister, I will do everything in my power to make sure it doesn't happen.
"I'd ask you to please support me, support your staff and get your jab."
© 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.