Northern Ireland’s chief scientific officer has said shielding should resume immediately.
In a dramatic development at today’s Stormont health committee, Professor Ian Young said clinically extremely vulnerable people should begin shielding again.
Responding to a question from vice-chair of the committee, Pam Cameron, Prof Young said he believes shielding should resume until the virus is brought back under control.
He also revealed that letters are due to be sent out imminently to update people who were shielding of the latest position.
Prof Young also revealed he does not believe the spike in cases in Northern Ireland is due to the variant strain of the virus.
“Current numbers can be explained by increased contact patterns and mixing before Christmas,” he said.
“The impact of the new variant is likely to be relatively small.”
He also stressed that he does not believe that the new variant will impact on the ongoing vaccination programme.
However, he warned that it is not impossible that new variants develop and that they will be resistant to the current vaccines.
Prof Young has appeared in front of the health committee as Northern Ireland is plunged into another strict lockdown.
He was challenged by the chair of the committee, Colm Gildernew, over the row relating to the delay of the second dose of the vaccine for thousands of frontline healthcare workers.
“On a personal level…I absolutely recognise that it’s something that can be debated either way,” he said.
“Different views may be taken on the strength of the evidence, but I’m convinced that the approach which has been taken and recommended in the UK is the best approach for the largest number of individuals and will bring the greatest public health benefit.”
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