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Be prepared for Leicester-style lockdowns, NI chief medic McBride warns

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The chief medical officer has warned that Northern Ireland "could go down the same route as Leicester" with regard to local lockdowns should a second wave of Covid-19 occur here. (Andrew Matthews/PA)

The chief medical officer has warned that Northern Ireland "could go down the same route as Leicester" with regard to local lockdowns should a second wave of Covid-19 occur here. (Andrew Matthews/PA)

The chief medical officer has warned that Northern Ireland "could go down the same route as Leicester" with regard to local lockdowns should a second wave of Covid-19 occur here. (Andrew Matthews/PA)

The chief medical officer has warned that Northern Ireland "could go down the same route as Leicester" with regard to local lockdowns should a second wave of Covid-19 occur here.

Michael McBride also said that drive-through flu vaccinations for older people could play a role in this year's innovative winter campaign because the elderly and vulnerable won't be able to attend GP surgeries.

And the 58-year-old leading medic stressed that instances of alcohol-related illness and mental ill-health connected to the Covid-19 lockdown are likely to significantly increase over the foreseeable future.

His comments came in an interview with the Belfast Telegraph on Wednesday, when there were no new deaths linked to the virus in Northern Ireland, meaning the total number of fatalities here remains at 556.

Another nine positive tests were also recorded, bringing the overall total on July 15 to 5,799.

Dr McBride said he could foresee local lockdowns such as the one imposed in Leicester on June 29 when non-essential shops and schools were forced to close again in the English city after a spike in positive cases.

"If we do the right thing we can impact and reduce the risk of a second wave," he said.

"It is possible that we might see localised geographical outbreaks and in those sorts of scenarios we may need to apply local measures.

"We could do down the same route as Leicester, where people were required not to do certain things. That is possible."

The Chief Medical Officer admitted that medics here were looking for innovative ways to deal with influenza vaccinations as Northern Ireland prepares for a potential second wave of coronavirus this winter. With the flu season just months away, Dr McBride said "nothing is off the table in terms of the flu vaccine campaign".

He added: "We can't be bringing older, vulnerable people into a GP surgery. We're actively looking at innovative means of administering the vaccine. That could involve outdoor administration or drive-through flu vaccination points".

Dr McBride also voiced concerns that alcohol's harmful role in Northern Ireland society has been exacerbated during the Covid-19 crisis, which he described as "the biggest public health challenge in a generation".

He said he believed the costs associated with misuse of the substance - £900m in economic terms and £250m to the health service in 2016 - would be "significantly more now".

Referring to recent cases of crowds congregating, Mr McBride had some advice for the public going forward.

"I would ask everyone to remember where we were a few months ago," he said.

"Remember how scary a place that was. Remember the daily death toll, the people who were hospitalised, those in intensive care, those who were bereaved. Just remember that and follow the advice."

Belfast Telegraph