Challenging winter ahead, warns deputy chief medical officer

Northern Ireland is facing a very challenging winter, the deputy chief medical officer has said.

Wednesday, 15th September 2021, 7:43 am
Updated Wednesday, 15th September 2021, 7:46 am

Dr Naresh Chada said compared with this time last year, there are very high levels of Covid-19 transmission in the community and people are mixing more following the lifting of lockdown restrictions.

He urged the public to follow public health advice and to take up the vaccination.

“I think we’re heading into a very challenging winter, compared to last summer, we are going into the autumn with very, very high levels of Covid infection in our community,” he said.

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“We have also had a whole host of relaxations now that people are mixing much more than they were before. Obviously all the things in society that were closed last autumn and winter now appear to be open so that means it is really important for people to get maximum protection as they go into a very challenging winter.

“There is going to be seasonal flu around, it was at very low levels last year, it is expected to be much higher this year. We have still got a very high base line of Covid and of course that could even continue for some time to come and there are also other respiratory illnesses which particularly affect children as well.”

Seven further deaths of patients who had tested positive for Covid-19 and 1,590 new confirmed cases of the virus were confirmed by the Department of Health on Tuesday.

That morning, there were 441 Covid-19 inpatients in hospital, 41 of whom were in intensive care

Naresh Chada, Deputy Chief Medical Officer at Northern Ireland's Department of Health, at the department headquarters at Castle Buildings in the grounds of Stormont

Dr Chada said the autumn is going to be busy for vaccination, targeting the Covid-19 booster jab for the older, vulnerable and health staff as well as the seasonal flu vaccine.

“The booster campaign is targeted at those who are most vulnerable – people over the age of 50 and those with underlying conditions as well as health and social care staff and those in residential homes,” he said.

“The booster is going to provide that extra addition to their immunity and that means they will be going into the winter with a greater level of protection because what we have found is that particularly in the older and more vulnerable groups, there tends to be a little bit of a fall off or waning of immunity so this is there just to provide that extra additional protection as we go into the winter.”