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Executive slammed over decisions as it discusses new Covid curbs

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Warning: Health Minister Robin Swann. Credit: Niall Carson/PA

Warning: Health Minister Robin Swann. Credit: Niall Carson/PA

PA

Warning: Health Minister Robin Swann. Credit: Niall Carson/PA

The Executive has been branded “a laughing stock” as it met to discuss new Covid restrictions on the same day MLAs were asked to approve previous relaxations.

Speaking as Robin Swann warned hospitality venues may have to close over Christmas if Covid cases keep rising, People Before Profit MLA Gerry Carroll said if the situation wasn’t “so grievously serious”, it would be farcical.

“How long does the Executive expect people to stay on this merry-go-round of emergency restrictions to deal with the surges caused by their own diabolical decision making?” he said.

“We were asked on Monday to rubber-stamp Covid regulations, which were introduced weeks ago to end social distancing in hospitality venues.

Coronavirus Data Graphs

“This is the kind of democratic deficit you could have expected from Donald Trump, but the Executive has been working this way for nearly two years.

“Worse, these relaxations have made headlines because of 170-related Covid cases in just one hospitality venue. And, just hours prior, the Executive themselves were debating new restrictions to deal with such surges.”

Ministers will meet again on Tuesday to discuss plans to help stop the spread of the virus.

The Executive discussed the Health Minister’s proposals on Monday, and talks will continue on Tuesday.

An Executive spokeswoman said: “While the meeting was constructive and progress was made, it was agreed that more work was required and the Executive is due to meet again on Tuesday morning to continue its discussions.”

Earlier Mr Swann told MLAs: “If the current trajectory continues with regard to the increased cases we are seeing, we may once again face the possibility where venues are asked to close their doors during the Christmas season.

“But let me be clear, it is not inevitable, and I do not want to have to reintroduce further restrictions unless completely unavoidable.”

Mr Swann has said anyone working from home when the pandemic began should do so again.

He has also suggested a new scoring system on Covid compliance for businesses.

The ‘scores on the doors’ scheme, similar to those in place for food safety standards, would see the development of a Covid rating for businesses based on an assessment of the measures they have in place and their compliance with public health regulations.

And Mr Swann warned local compliance with mask wearing and the use of face coverings is insufficient and enforcement needs to be strengthened and action taken against those who are non-compliant.

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill tweeted that the meeting to discuss Mr Swann’s paper was positive and the Executive would meet again on Tuesday “to finalise the approach”.

Justice Minister Naomi Long on Monday said businesses needed to “step up” and help ensure the use of face masks on their premises.

Mr Swann’s paper proposes that the Alliance leader’s department should oversee plans to raise compliance levels above 80%.

But Mrs Long told the BBC her department did not have enforcement powers, and personal responsibility was needed.

She called for a “coordinated effort” across departments to encourage greater usage.

Three Covid-related deaths were reported here on Monday, along with 1,469 new cases.

There were 378 Covid patients in hospitals, with 36 in intensive care on Monday. Hospital occupancy was at 103%.


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