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Coronavirus: Michelle O'Neill breaks down over threat to cancer patient treatment

Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill broke down in tears in the Assembly after being asked about a cancer patient who had her chemotherapy stopped due to the risks posed by the coronavirus.

Ms O'Neill, responding to a question from TUV leader Jim Allister about one of his constituents whose treatment has been stopped, said: “What do you say, what can you say to that person?

"These are the challenges which we’re going to have to deal with,” Ms O'Neill replied before becoming upset and taking a moment to compose herself.

“There aren’t any good answers to those kinds of questions," she said.

Mr Allister was contacted by a constituent worried about a relative's cancer treatment on Monday.

He said she was a a 32-year-old mother with a two-year-old child and had "very serious cancer" and her "chemotheraphy is to end because choices had to be made as to who got treated".

The patient said she was led to believe that a chemotherapy session scheduled for next week was likely to be her last.

The Northern Health Trust, which delivers services in Mr Allister's constituency, said there were no plans to stop chemotherapy treatment.

The Belfast Telegraph reported last week that chemotherapy for some patients has been stopped at the Belfast Cancer Centre as it would leave their immune system vulnerable to the coronavirus pandemic.

Some individuals with particularly aggressive, or late stage, forms of cancer are being informed that the risk to their life, if they contract the virus, is too great to continue chemotherapy.

Belfast Health and Social Care Trust said: "For some patients clinicians may need to discuss whether the risks of beginning or continuing their cancer treatment could outweigh the benefits, given that many patients receiving chemotherapy in particular are more at risk of becoming seriously unwell if they contract the coronavirus infection.

"We appreciate this is a difficult time for all of patients and will do everything we can to ensure continuity of care throughout this challenging time."

Earlier this month, Stormont's Department of Health said: "Suspect cancer cases and other urgent care will continue, unless advised by the applicable trust."

Belfast Telegraph