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Hospitals ban visits in bid to protect staff and patients


Warning: Dr Michael McBride says easing of restrictions "some time away yet".

Warning: Dr Michael McBride says easing of restrictions "some time away yet".

Warning: Dr Michael McBride says easing of restrictions "some time away yet".

Visits to general medical wards in hospitals will be banned from tomorrow.

Health Minister Robin Swann confirmed the move due to the prevalence of coronavirus within communities.

Visits will still be permitted in hospices and care homes, and the decision will be "kept under constant review".

But Mr Swann also warned that nobody should "underestimate the sheer challenge" faced by healthcare staff on Covid wards. He said they were working "under the strain of full PPE, knowing that for many patients, they may well be the last face that they see".

He added that staff were "working well beyond their hours to support colleagues and stay with patients in their final hours".

And Mr Swann urged people not to be distracted by the "small, but vocal, minority who claim the Covid threat is an exaggeration".

"They have been discredited. The facts are clear because their constant undermining is nothing but an insult to health and care workers," he said.

"We need to look after them, not just now but for the years to come. We as a society will have to look after our health service better than we have in previous years. The health service is up against it right now and the pressures are without parallel."

A further 19 local people have died from Covid-19, bringing the death toll to 1,517.

Another 1,145 people have also tested positive for the virus in the last 24 hours.

As of yesterday morning, there were 869 Covid-19 confirmed inpatients, 277 more than this time last week.

"That rate of growth is wholly unsustainable," Mr Swann warned. But he added that despite the pressures, those most in need of treatment would still get it, but may have to travel to other locations.

Chief Scientific Adviser Prof Ian Young said the average number of daily new coronavirus cases had risen to over 2,000 at one point, and while the number was now falling, they remain at a "very high level".

He added: "Even now, as we see the numbers falling, getting lower, they remain at a higher level than any time during wave one or wave two of this epidemic. So, what everyone is doing is working to reduce cases, but we still have a long way to go."

In all, 109,259 doses of Covid-19 vaccines had been administered here as of Tuesday evening, with 91,419 people having received their first dose.

But Chief Medical Officer Dr Michael McBride stressed that while vaccines were "undoubtedly a game changer", they don't make the virus "disappear". He again warned that those who are vaccinated cannot then simply forget about Covid-19.

"It cannot be party time or time to throw caution to the wind. People who are vaccinated have to keep taking all those measures that keep every one of us safe," Dr McBride added.

Belfast Telegraph