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Editor's Viewpoint

Northern Ireland had no voice at a most critical stage in coronavirus pandemic

Editor's Viewpoint


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Professor Ian Young

Professor Ian Young

Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press E

Professor Ian Young

Northern Ireland's preparations in the fight to combat coronavirus fall into the category of 'you couldn't make it up'. At a crucial time in March when the pandemic was beginning its deadly spike, and fears were being expressed that deaths could run into the thousands, the province had no voice in the influential Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) which was advising the UK Government.

The man who should have been at the table during those high-level discussions was the province's Chief Scientific Adviser, Professor Ian Young, but he was absent as he was on long-term sickness leave. Incredibly, no one seems to have thought it would be a good idea to send a deputy. So, Northern Ireland's view on the way forward was never put until Prof Young first appeared at Sage on April 7.

It was important that our voice should have been heard. The rate of infection here was of a vastly different level to that in England, particularly London, at that time.