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Coronavirus: No need to cancel large scale events in Northern Ireland, says chief medical officer

  • 100 critical care beds ready in Northern Ireland
  • SDLP MLA calls for all school skiing trips to Italy to be cancelled
  • Still only one confirmed case in NI

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Dr Michael McBride, Chief Medical Officer for Northern Ireland with the latest coronavirus update. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye

Dr Michael McBride, Chief Medical Officer for Northern Ireland with the latest coronavirus update. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye

©Philip Magowan / PressEye

Dr Michael McBride (Chief Medical Officer), with  Dr Miriam McCarthy ( Director of Commissioning HSCB)  and Dr Gerry Waldron (Head of Health Protection)   during an  update to the media  about the Coronavirus in Northern Ireland, at the Public Health Agency Head Quarters in Belfast on Tuesday.
Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press

Dr Michael McBride (Chief Medical Officer), with Dr Miriam McCarthy ( Director of Commissioning HSCB) and Dr Gerry Waldron (Head of Health Protection) during an update to the media about the Coronavirus in Northern Ireland, at the Public Health Agency Head Quarters in Belfast on Tuesday. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press

Dr Michael McBride, Chief Medical Officer for Northern Ireland with the latest coronavirus update. Picture: Philip Magowan / PressEye

Northern Ireland's chief medical officer has said there is no need to cancel large scale events or mass gatherings as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.

Dr Michael McBride confirmed during a press briefing that there has been 151 people tested for the virus so far, with only one confirmed positive in Northern Ireland.

The medic told reporters on Tuesday afternoon that Northern Ireland was still in the "containment phase" of the virus and that it will take more than a year for a vaccine to be produced.

He said that initial data shows 99% of infected patients will make a full recovery while 95% will suffer mild to moderate symptoms which will not require hospital treatment.

"Those numbers will change as we get data more relevant to European health care systems, maybe more aligned with ours," Dr McBride said.

Northern Ireland has around 100 critical care beds ready as it braces for Covid-19, officials confirmed.

Non-urgent services may have to be stood down during a peak of infection which could last months, Dr McBride said.

We are working to ensure that we protect the critical care capacity for the sickest people Dr Miriam McCarthy

The aim is to "flatten" the peak transmission period and medical staff are in a phase of containing the disease.

Dr Miriam McCarthy, a director at the health and social care board, said critical care beds had been readied.

In order to prevent the spread a patient with the virus being treated in a single room will experience "negative pressure", where air is instead sucked back into the room rather than it mixing with other patients in hospitals who may have compromised immune systems. However, such facilities can only be used to manage relatively small numbers of admissions.

She said: "We are working to ensure that we protect the critical care capacity for the sickest people.

"We have about 100 beds in Northern Ireland for adults and children. We may need every bit of that capacity to deal with people infected by the virus."

Trusts have in place robust arrangements to test for coronavirus HSCB

She said they were trying to expand the number of critical care beds available but most will not need critical care.

She said acute care beds were already under pressure.

The Health and Social Care Board (HSCB) said that all efforts are being made to avoid the spread of infection between people.

"All Trusts have in place robust arrangements to test for coronavirus," a HSCB spokesperson added.

"Trusts have identified the hospital location and ward areas that will be utilised if a number of people need to be admitted because of coronavirus. This is vital in ensuring that those patients can be appropriately treated. It will also protect other vulnerable hospital patients from the risk of infection.

"Detailed attention is being given to ensure staff safety and welfare issues are fully addressed."

The Public Health Agency announced last week a female healthcare worker from Belfast had tested positive after returning from northern Italy. She flew home on an Aer Lingus flight via Dublin before travelling by train to Belfast.

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SDLP MLA Justin McNulty

SDLP MLA Justin McNulty

SDLP MLA Justin McNulty

Meanwhile, SDLP MLA Justin McNulty has called for the Northern Ireland Executive to step in and cancel all school ski trips to Italy to help stop the spread of the virus.

The SDLP health spokesperson said his office has been contacted by a number of parents of pupils in his constituency who are due to travel on school organised ski trips to Italy in the coming weeks.

He said school leaders are "crying out" for guidance on what to do.

"One principal said she has been in contact with eight different agencies and departments on this issue in recent days. Everyone is passing the buck and offering schools advice that amounts to little more than ‘wash your hands.’ Or better still, the advice has been ‘it’s up to you, you make the decision!," the Newry and Armagh MLA said.

"This is not acceptable. We need to adopt a whole school, whole family, whole community approach here."

Mr McNulty called on the Executive to step in and issue advice to schools to cancel the trips and cover the refunds, saying it would cost less to deal with this rather than a full scale health crisis if the virus spreads.

"It’s time to get real, be cautious and be sensible," he added.

Belfast Telegraph


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