Northern Ireland’s most senior doctor has warned that the economy must be protected in order to save lives.
Dr Michael McBride was giving evidence at the Stormont health committee on Thursday, March 26, and told MLAs “poverty kills people too”.
The chief medical officer said the Executive is facing a difficult balance between reducing the spread of coronavirus and ensuring the health of the population is not damaged in the long-term as a result of social distancing measures.
He said: “We have sadly seen loss of life and we are going to see in the coming weeks numbers of deaths increase and the rates of those deaths increase as well.
“That is a significant loss and our priority is to reduce mortality, both direct mortality from the virus and indirect mortality where the health service is overwhelmed.
“But we also need to remember that poverty kills people too.
“That’s why it’s important we maintain the balance between ensuring that any impacts on our wider economy in the longer term doesn’t significantly disadvantage those often already most economically disadvantaged.
“So, there is balance here - nothing trumps saving a life.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced an effective UK-wide lockdown in a bid to tackle the spread of coronavirus, imposing new restrictions on public life, people's movements and forcing thousands of businesses to close.