BMA chair Dr Tom Black sounds note of caution on reopening
DUP MP Sammy Wilson has claimed that the public have been terorrised into following Covid-19 rules in Northern Ireland.
Mr Wilson called for the reopening of the region's economy and questioned the influence of the medical profession on the approach to the pandemic.
The East Antrim MP was speaking to BBC Radio Ulster from England where is carrying out his work as MP.
He noted the nation reopened much of its economy on Monday, while Northern Ireland is "still living in the winter of economic and social deprivation".
British Medical Association (BMA) Northern Ireland chair Dr Tom Black urged caution, but accepted the time was right to slowly begin reopening the economy.
Mr Wilson insisted restrictions should be removed quickly so the situation would reflect that in England and called for dates to reopen businesses.
He said he believed the pandemic response had been driven by medical opinion for "far, far too long".
The DUP MP refused the opportunity to revisit comments directed at Health Minister Robin Swann and the Department of Health's handling of the pandemic, saying he is aware of the "fights" DUP ministers were involved in to get schools reopened and "fights still ongoing in trying to get the economy moving again".
"We can't allow medical considerations to dictate every other aspect of policy in Northern Ireland and unfortunately we did get to the point where policy was decided by the views of the medical profession," he said.
The DUP MP said he believed the pandemic had taken a large toll on people's mental health.
He said children had been "scared witless" with some "thinking that when they go back to school they are going to die".
"People are still afraid to go out because we've had a period when terror was almost imbibed in people to try and keep them in line, that's done immense damage," Mr Wilson said.
The east Antrim representative said he was regularly approached by people who had missed out on medical treatment as a result of reduced services during the pandemic.
Dr Black said the lifting of restrictions was deserved after the sacrifices people had made to push down the transmission of the virus
"We need to be very careful, caution is clearly the word, we need to ease restrictions step-by-step watching the data as we go," the Derry GP said.
"I think it would be fair now to give the public some reward for all the hard work they've done."
Dr Black said the peak of infections worldwide had not yet been reached and pointed to Chile, which had a spike of cases despite widespread vaccinations.
"Even when you have lots of vaccinations you can still get an outbreak, so when we ease people are still going to have to be very careful" he said.
Asked if May 17 would be too early to reopen indoor hospitality, Dr Black said the data should be examined after the expected lifting of restrictions on non essential retail later this month.
"It would take five, six weeks of the wrong behaviour to put us back up to 1,000 (cases) per 100,000 (people), back into a huge wave," he said.
Mr Wilson said that Covid-19 would not be eliminated and there was a need to learn to live with it like the flu.
"If the medical advice that's going to be given to the minister is that 'look infection rates are still 34 or 33 or 20 (per 100,000 people) therefore we can't open' then we're never going to get the place opened again," the DUP MP said.
Dr Black said many older people were still receiving their second vaccine dose.
"Get them a week or two past their second vaccine, get them the maximum protection and then we can look at the numbers," the BMA NI chair said.