Six months to the day since the first case of Covid-19 was announced Health Minister Robin Swann said Northern Ireland “has been living through a nightmare that goes on and on”.
nd he has hit out at licensed premises which have been breaking the Covid-19 guidelines.
Speaking at Thursday daily Covid-19 conference the Mnister said he would “get down on both knees and beg people in a heartbeat” if that’s what it took to get them to adhere to the guidance.
Revealing that there had been one further death from Covid-19, and 69 new confirmed cases of the virus, he said there were growing concerns over the R-number rate of transmission which has been consistently over 1.0 for several weeks now.
“This is a nightmare that stretches on and on,” he said.
“The R number is likely to be 1.3. This continues to be the biggest public health crisis in a generation.
“Any complacency presents a challenge to us all,”
He said there has been a “blatant disregard” for Covid-19 regulations by some in the hospitality sector.
“If you flout the rules you must face the consequences,” he told the Stormont news conference.
While praising Hospitality Ulster for their lead in the industry, the Minister said he will now propose to his executive colleagues that legislation should be strengthened to punish those premises who have been flouting restrictions.
Chief Scientific Adviser Professor Ian Young said that while Antrim and Newtownabbey continues to see the most new cases of Covid-19, there is growing concern over the number of cases in Belfast.
“Our low point was the beginning of July when we were experiencing three to four cases of the virus per day,” he says.
“Now that is almost 60 cases per day on average.
“The highest incidence of cases recently has been in Mid and East Antrim, but the area he is most concerned about is Belfast, where the number of caes is is rising “consistently and steadily”.
“Cases of the virus per day have increased more than tenfold since early July.
“At present most of those cases are in younger people and show hospital admissions and bed occupancy are growing slowly,” he said.
“Nonetheless it is clear that the virus is spreading and is everywhere in Northern Ireland.”
Following two recent Covid-19 outbreaks at Craigavon Hospital, the Health Minister told the briefing that further clusters hospitals “are inevitable” and he warned that there will be a difficult winter ahead.
“We must stick together as a society,” he said.
And responding to news that 311,000 people in Northern Ireland are waiting for a first consultant appointment, the minister described waiting times as “totally and absolutely intolerable”.
“I won’t try to defend them as they are indefensible,” he said, adding that while the pandemic had “blown plans off course” for tackling waiting lists, all Health trusts were still working towards delivering the New Decade New Approach plan announced in January.