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Two weeks of further restrictions needed to protect hospitals, Swann warns

If ministers take no action there will be a significant increase in Covid and non-Covid deaths as other planned activity is stopped, a report said.

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Two weeks of further coronavirus restrictions are required before Christmas, health minister Robin Swann said (Kelvin Boyes/Press Eye/PA)

Two weeks of further coronavirus restrictions are required before Christmas, health minister Robin Swann said (Kelvin Boyes/Press Eye/PA)

Two weeks of further coronavirus restrictions are required before Christmas, health minister Robin Swann said (Kelvin Boyes/Press Eye/PA)

Stormont ministers have been told two weeks of further coronavirus restrictions are required before Christmas to prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed.

Health minister Robin Swann has warned colleagues if no new measures are introduced by the end of November even a full lockdown in mid-December would not be enough to prevent the health service being swamped by Covid-19 cases.

Proposals in a paper circulated by Mr Swann said restrictions beginning on November 27 appeared to be the most effective option in reducing virus transmission.

Top health officials believe it highly likely planned relaxations of the next two weeks will result in the virus’ reproductive rate rising well above one, with a subsequent increase in hospital intensive care admissions in December.

If ministers take no action there will be a significant increase in Covid and non-Covid deaths as other planned activity is stopped, PA understands officials to project.

Mr Swann’s department believes a two-week period of restriction starting on November 27 would offer the best prospect of avoiding the need for further intervention before January.

It is understood the minister sees some merit in the police playing a role in legally enforceable localised travel restrictions to support the stay at home message.

Until now, the Executive has only advised against “unnecessary travel”.

If no intervention occurred in late November it is likely even a full lockdown from the middle of next month would be insufficient to prevent current levels of pressure on hospitals from being significantly exceeded.

The Executive was meeting to discuss Mr Swann’s proposals on Thursday afternoon and was adjourned for a period.

Another 487 people have tested positive for Covid-19 in Northern Ireland, the Department of Health said.

A total of 3,401 cases have been diagnosed over the last seven days.

Another 12 deaths were reported, the department’s daily update showed.

PA


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