| 6.1°C Belfast

Prof Ian Young: NI ‘approaching corner’ of Omicron wave with hospital pressures ‘close to peak’

Executive meeting at Stormont on Thursday over latest data


Professor Ian Young. Credit: PA

Professor Ian Young. Credit: PA

Professor Ian Young. Credit: PA

Northern Ireland is approaching the peak of hospital pressures during the current Covid wave and is “approaching the corner”, according to Professor Ian Young.

The chief scientific advisor said a change in approach in testing – with people no longer requiring a PCR test to confirm a positive lateral flow test – means case numbers are currently an “unreliable indicator” of the current situation.

Instead, Prof Young told BBC’s Good Morning Ulster programme that hospital admissions are “steady” and said while the number of inpatients in hospital is rising “very slowly”, Northern Ireland is getting “very close to the peak” of pressures in the system.

Coronavirus Data Graphs

However, he also revealed there is currently between 6% and 8% of hospital staff absent from work as a result of Covid-19, with staff shortages still a concern.

The chief scientific advisor made the comments as ministers in the Stormont Executive are due to meet on Thursday to discuss the latest Covid-19 data.

It is not expected there will be any additional restrictions added, following changes made that came into force on Boxing Day with the closure of nightclubs and return of table service in hospitality settings.

The virtual meeting of ministers will take place on Thursday morning as officials present the latest data and continuing strain on Northern Ireland’s health system.

On Wednesday Health Minister Robin Swann made a new request for military assistance to help relieve some of the Covid pressures in hospitals.

Mr Swann made the official request to the Ministry of Defence to provide combat medical technicians (CMTs) and non-medical staff.

It is understood the latest request is linked to increased hospital pressures due to high levels of staff sickness due to Covid.

Thousands of workers across the health service in Northern Ireland are currently absent as the number of Omicron cases remains high in the region.

Troops have already come to Northern Ireland on three previous occasions during the Covid crisis following requests from the Department of Health under an arrangement known as Maca (Military Aid to Civilian Authorities).

“In terms of the number of inpatients, they are rising but very slowly, suggesting we are getting very close to peak I hope in terms of hospital pressures,” Prof Young said.

“I would anticipate we would reach peak within the next one to two weeks.

“I am cautiously optimistic we are very close to peak in terms of what is happening in our hospitals.

“We've always been clear in this wave we are less concerned about case numbers and more concerned about hospital pressures. In terms of case numbers.

“I am hopeful in terms of hospital pressures - I think we are approaching the corner and I think we will hopefully be seeing falling hospital numbers in the very near future.

“I hope that we will be able to get through this wave particularly with some extra support and we will go into somewhat better times in the next month or two.”

Top Videos