NI First Minister Does Not Expect Major Changes To Be Made To NI's COVID-19 Rules At Executive Meeting Scheduled For September 23
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 on Thursday September 23.
First Minister Statements
As reported by rte.ie, Givan said that he thinks that more progress could be made on some of the rules, particularly around how many people can meet in private homes, but that any steps will be "proportionate".
Givan reportedly said that a balance has to be struck between the impact on people’s physical health and the impact on the economy, taking disease transmission rates and hospitalisations into account, and, "Whenever we come to the meeting on Thursday, of course we will be guided by all of the factors that we need to take into account. That is our health service, also what is happening in our economy, the impacts on community, family.
"That has been the approach we have taken over the past number of months where we have been able to take gradual measures. Other jurisdictions held the line and then allowed everything to reopen, and we have taken an approach which has been measured, and on Thursday we will take the same approach.
"So, there are multiple reasons as to why our hospitals are under pressure, COVID is one of them and we need to take balanced decisions, and we will take that approach as a party coming into Thursday, and I would hope that we can make some progress which is proportionate to the level of the risks."
Givan reportedly said that he favours permitting people to make informed decisions and take personal responsibility rather than regulating in areas which are then difficult to police.
Deputy First Minister Statements
Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill, who recently recovered from COVID-19 and who has been advocating a cautious approach to further easements of the rules relating to the virus, reportedly said that it is important to listen to the views of hospital staff on the front line, who she reportedly said are "physically and mentally exhausted".
O'Neill reportedly said, "They're burned out is the best way probably to put it, they're seeing increased staff absences, for obvious reasons because they've had to make such difficult decisions.
"They're constantly facing not just the physical exhaustion but also dealing with families at very difficult times. They've had to go over and above and beyond, and we can't take any of that for granted, they're begging for our support in the time ahead because they know they're facing into a very difficult winter."
O'Neill reportedly said that there are real concerns about forthcoming winter pressures, and that the Executive will discuss plans to counter them and to keep COVID-19 pressures off of hospitals as much as possible in the coming months.
O'Neill reportedly reiterated her view that she is not prepared to rule out a further lockdown in Northern Ireland, however, she reportedly stressed that she wants to avoid the imposition of further restrictions, and reportedly said, "It's very clear that we need a very cautious approach in the time ahead."
O'Neill reportedly said that Northern Ireland Health Minister Robin Swann will bring a winter surge plan for the health service forward in due course, and that Thursday September 23's Executive meeting will focus on how the administration as a collective will respond to the winter pressures.
When asked whether nightclubs will get a roadmap for reopening on Thursday September 23, O'Neill reportedly said, "I don't expect to see us being able to make huge strides forward in terms of that. I understand the hospitality sector have been hardest hit and we need to do all we can to support them.
"That's why I think it's really important to start or continue the conversations with them around ventilation, how to get them to a state of readiness to be able to open at some point, hopefully in the future.
"I do think that in terms of big moves forward or strides on Thursday, I don't suspect that's where we're going to get to."
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