By Jonathan McCambridge, PA
A senior GP in Northern Ireland has warned politicians in Northern Ireland should prepare for further lockdowns if there is a surge in covid-19 cases in the region.
Dr Alan Stout, Chair of the GP Committee of the BMA in Northern Ireland said a winter plan is needed.
"We've seen from the announcement by Boris Johnson yesterday just how concerned they are about covid and other winter pressures in the coming weeks and months.
"It is exactly the same here and the only difference is that we are approaching it with an already high infection number and unfortunately deaths."
Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced his winter plan for tackling Covid in England on Tuesday, and said some measures would be kept in reserve as part of the Government’s Plan B for if the NHS faced unsustainable pressure.
These included vaccine passports, mandatory face masks and advising people to work from home.
Meanwhile, Dr Stout continued, "It is so important we drive the infection numbers down and we keep following the guidance to minimise the spread of infection and in doing that ultimately to prevent the need for further restrictions or lockdowns."
Dr Alan Stout speaking to Q Radio and pictured above during a previous meeting of Stormont's Health Committee
Earlier, Stormont's First Minister said Northern Ireland does have plans in place for a winter covid surge.
Paul GIvan said the Executive would be meeting again next week to consider Covid measures amid concerns across the UK that there could be a jump in hospital admissions in the coming months.
During an appearance on the BBC, Mr Givan was asked if a similar plan was being considered for Northern Ireland.
He said: “We (the Executive) are going to be meeting again on September 23. We have been taking a number of very considered steps during the course of the summer.
“England is in a further place than us, we still have a number of areas where there are restrictions in place by way of regulation.
“But I have been clear throughout this process that whether it is regulation or guidance we need to provide people with the best possible information that they can take informed decisions in terms of what is best for them and their own personal circumstances.”
Asked if he was concerned about a winter spike in cases, Mr Givan said: “There are plans already in place, that is something we talked about at our last Executive meeting, so there are surge plans.
“I was speaking with the chief medical officer, Sir Michael McBride, about this and the health services has already brought in additional assistance but there are plans in place within the health service to meet the winter demands.
“There has been a sustained period of pressure on our health service over the past six/seven weeks. There hasn’t been the same spike as there was in previous waves, we aren’t seeing the same level of pressure on our critical care.
“However, that is still significant when you have around 44/45 people in intensive care and so there are pressures on our critical care, the health service is trying to continue to manage other elective procedures and that is something that on previous occasions there were cancellations of surgeries and we are seeking to minimise that as far as we possibly can.”
Mr Givan also paid tribute following the death of his party colleague, Paul Hamill, an Antrim and Newtownabbey councillor. Mr Givan said it was his understanding that Mr Hamill had died after contracting Covid-19.
He added: “It is a tragic passing of Paul. I know the circumstances have shocked all of us within the party. Paul was a dedicated councillor, he was committed to serving the local people. His heart was in serving the local community and it is a tragic loss.
“It just brings home that reality that Covid is still with us, it does affect people of all ages and that is why we need to continue to take responsible decisions in managing Covid.”