Sinn Féin South Antrim MLA, and Minister in the Executive Office, Declan Kearney has appealed for a redoubling of community support for the Executive’s new Covid restrictions, as infection rates soar and hospitals reach breaking point.
Declan Kearney said,
“We have now entered a very dangerous situation with Covid-19 infection rates soaring across the north, a new variant of the virus driving up numbers, and hospitals struggling to cope with the growing pressures on Covid wards and ICUs.
“Every council area, including Antrim and Newtownabbey, is experiencing a steadily increasing incidence of positive cases. Our Chief Scientific Advisor is now saying that as many as one person in every 40 is likely to have the virus in those local government districts which are currently showing the highest rates of infection. We believe that on average across the north, one in every 60 persons may be Covid-19 positive. These statistics demonstrate frightening levels of community transmission. The new variant is many times more contagious.
“Our hospitals are currently running at 103 per cent capacity while admissions associated to the virus continue to rise. This is unsustainable for our health and social care system. There is now a very real danger that hospitals will be completely overwhelmed if infection rates continue on their present trajectory. Already, the Northern Trust has had to cancel the majority of its planned surgery in order to divert staff to deal with this third wave.
“Given the seriousness of community transmission levels, this week it has been necessary for our power sharing Executive to introduce additional measures, including making the stay-at-home rule enforceable through regulation. These restrictions are essential if we are to drive infection rates down and protect the resilience of our health system.
“I commend the majority of citizens who have acted very responsibly during the many months of this pandemic and I am asking you to continue to play your part in adhering to restrictions during this phase of lock down.
“Yesterday I met a very large group of our religious leaders from all faith groups. They have shown great leadership by voluntarily announcing an end to services of worship for the duration of this new lock down, as an important contribution to reducing community contacts.
“Immediately prior to Christmas I spoke with the PSNI commanders with responsibility for South Antrim, and other local civic leaders to discuss the challenges we are facing. I commend their commitment to the whole of society fight back against the spread of the virus at this time. We will continue to stay in close contact.
“However, a minority of citizens persist in ignoring the health message. They are putting themselves and their families at risk, and also potentially undermining the efforts of the rest of the community.
“I therefore appeal to everyone to please listen to the health messages and to follow the advice and guidance given.
“We owe it to ourselves, our families and wider community in South Antrim and further afield, to act responsibly. I am asking everyone to stay at home, to stay safe, and give our health service the best possible chance to deal with the escalating threat of Covid-19.”