Responding to the new lockdown restrictions announced today (Wednesday, 14 October, 2020), chair of BMA’s Northern Ireland Council Tom Black said: “While these restrictions are welcome, doctors feel that they are too little too late and don’t go far enough. It was clear from the rising case numbers across the country and increasing hospital admissions that full lockdown measures needed to be brought in much sooner and it is highly regrettable that this delay in political decision-making has brought our fragile health service closer to the cliff edge.
“We realise the economic impact these new lockdown measures will have, but the effect on our health service and the staff who deal with the daily clinical reality of this pandemic cannot be understated. It must be remembered there is a two-week time lag between exposure to COVID-19, positive cases and hospital admissions. In two weeks’ time our doctors, nurses and frontline health service staff will deal with the effect of daily positive covid case rates that now exceed the 800 mark and growing. These dedicated staff, many of whom are dealing with fatigue and burn-out from the first wave, must now tackle this second surge with the added pressure of more and more colleagues being absent or having to isolate. This is simply unsustainable. Doctors tell us they feel they are unable to hold the line this time around and that a full lock down needs to be brought in as soon as possible.
“The government must learn from its delay in taking more rapid action to address this second surge. This pandemic is not going anywhere soon and our health service needs the support, resources and forward planning from government to allow it to deliver care for all patients in tandem with this virus. This means: addressing the chronic clinical and nursing workforce gaps and structural underinvestment in our health service that have both contributed massively to our elective care waiting list crisis – a crisis that has been thrown into sharp focus by COVID-19; a better track and trace system in place to monitor the spread of this virus; clearer and more consistent communication with the public on what they need to do to stop the spread; better enforcement when restrictions that are there to protect the public and ultimately our health service are broken; childcare support for frontline key workers.
“Another surge where we are unprepared will happen again unless proper planning is put in place now as a matter of urgency. Lives depend on it.”