Fears that North hospitals will be overwhelmed

The Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast where the first Covid-19 vaccinations in Northern Ireland were given last week


By Anthony Neeson

There are fears that Northern Ireland’s hospitals could be overwhelmed after the Christmas holidays.

The chief executives of the six regional health and social care trusts made the warning in a joint statement on Monday.

There are fears that Covid-19 restrictions for Christmas could lead to another spike in January.

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The statement said: "Several of Northern Ireland's acute hospitals are already operating beyond capacity and flow through hospitals has been seriously impacted by required restrictions as a result of Covid-19.

"Add pre-existing staffing pressures and staff absence due to Covid-19 infection, or the need to self-isolate, and there is a very real risk that hospitals will be overwhelmed in the event of a further Covid-19 spike in January.

"We are not making this point lightly and as a result, we are appealing to the public to be extremely cautious over the festive period and to take all necessary precautions to stop the virus spreading."

The chief executives added that 2021 can be “a year of hope” because of vaccine roll-out, however “we first have to get through what we now face for the remainder of this winter period."

The warning comes as the Department of Health received another consignment of the Pfizer/BioTech vaccine on Sunday, bringing the number of vaccines in the North to almost 50,000.

Welcoming the arrival, Health Minister Robin Swann said: “I also want to pay tribute to everyone who has worked so hard on the planning and delivery of this historic vaccination program.”

It’s envisaged that the vaccination program will continue to the summer of 2021.