Northern Ireland may require further Covid restrictions but does not face the prospect of another lockdown, its chief medical officer has said.
Michael McBride has warned that Northern Ireland faces a very serious situation and further restrictions on certain parameters may be needed if efforts to suppress the current wave fail.
There have been seven other deaths of patients who had previously tested positive for Covid-19 in Northern Ireland.
On Friday, 1,690 other positive cases of the virus were also notified by the Ministry of Health.
As of Friday morning, 410 Covid-positive patients were hospitalized, including 33 in intensive care.
“I don’t think we will return to the situation we had before, in March of last year, when we had this lockdown,” Mr McBride told BBC Radio Ulster.
He said the vaccination schedule meant a lockdown was less likely.
“I don’t think we will come back to the damaging impact of lockdowns, but we may need to consider our wider restrictions in certain environments and sectors where we know the risks are higher,” he said.
“If we don’t act now, and if we don’t act decisively, we could unfortunately return to informing the executive that further interventions are needed to prevent our health services from being overwhelmed,” Mr. McBride.
He said the easing of restrictions in the hospitality sector at the end of October had resulted in a “very significant increase in cases”.
Northern chief science adviser Professor Ian Young said there is a “menu of measures” known to be effective that can be recommended to the Stormont executive in mid-December if the situation deteriorates.
He said these would include restrictions or closures in certain sectors, but that retail closure would be unlikely.
“We are seeing a strong upward trajectory of cases in Northern Ireland, and this is a trend that we are seeing in the Republic of Ireland and also in many countries of Western Europe as winter approaches.” he told the Nolan Show. .
“In about three to four weeks, if we don’t take action, it looks like hospitals are in danger of being overwhelmed.
“We’re still not at the Covid levels we saw last winter… hospitals have contingency plans in place and those plans are activated, but if the Covid numbers increase more significantly, then even these plans might not be enough. ” said Professor Young.
Asked about the proposal to strengthen homeworking, Mr McBride said the evidence indicated it was potentially “one of the most effective interventions”.
He said people did not need to cancel the planned Christmas parties at this point, but advised them to take precautions to minimize risk, such as performing a lateral flow test before attending. – PA