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Senior medic: Opportune time to introduce restrictions to stem Omicron in NI ‘a week ago’

Chair of British Medical Association urges Executive to introduce measures ‘sooner than later’


Dr Tom Black

Dr Tom Black

Dr Tom Black

The opportune time to bring back lockdown restrictions in Northern Ireland to tackle Omicron would have been a week ago, a senior medic has claimed.

Dr Tom Black, chair of the NI British Medical Association (BMA) said it was situation where the “sooner the better” restrictions should be introduced here.

“The sooner we bring them in, the greater the effect they will have,” he told Radio Ulster's Stephen Nolan show.

The medic urged for Government money to be secured now in order to mitigate against the economic harms of restrictions.

Northern Ireland is to receive another £75m from the UK government to help tackle the spread of Covid-19, bringing the total to £150m.

It follows talks between the Chancellor Rishi Sunak and the devolved nations for increased funding as the Omicron variant continues to spread.

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This is on top of the previous £75m for Northern Ireland announced by the Treasury last week.

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, however, has warned that £150m would be not enough to cover the costs of reinstating furlough.

Dr Black, outlining the rising number of Omicron cases in London, said it was fortunate Northern Ireland was a “week to a week and a half” behind the curve.

Referring to the worse-case scenario outlining that Northern Ireland could face 30,000 cases a day at the peak of Omicron, he suggested the peak here will be “second, third week of January”.

He explained that he was calling on restrictions to be introduced in Northern Ireland as soon as possible based on Sage papers issued at the weekend.

However, it is expected that restrictions, if implemented, will be introduced after Christmas based on comments made by Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill who said advice from the chief medial and chief scientific officers had indicated post-December 25.

“This curve is so high, so sharp with Omicron that all the pressures will come all at the same time for the health service,” he said.

"And I think it is one of our biggest concerns, especially with the number of staff we’re going to have off sick.”

Executive ministers will be holding informal discussions on restrictions on Monday and Tuesday before meeting formally on Wednesday to debate the issue.

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