Covid-19: BMA chief Dr Tom Black urges cautious return to normality

Medics are hoping for something of a return to normality with the worst of the omicron wave of coronavirus infections now believed to be behind us in Northern Ireland.

By Niall Deeney
Tuesday, 18th January 2022, 7:47 pm
Updated Wednesday, 19th January 2022, 8:18 am

The Stormont Executive will discuss the situation and review the current restrictions when they meet on Thursday.

The head of the British Medical Association (BMA) in Northern Ireland, a group representing the views of doctors, has urged the Executive to move with “caution” as it seeks to remove some of the remaining Covid restrictions.

Dr Tom Black, who chairs the BMA’s Northern Ireland committee, expressed hope in an interview with the News Letter that high levels of natural immunity from previous infections and the success of the vaccine roll-out should provide “resilience” against a further wave of infections.

Dr Tom Black said easing restrictions too quickly could spark an increase in infections

Currently, nightclubs in Northern Ireland must remain shut while hospitality businesses such as pubs and restaurants are required to operate with table service only.

Mandatory mask wearing remains in place here, while so-called vaccine passports – certification to show either proof of vaccination, natural immunity from a previous infection, or a recent negative test result – are still required for entry into a range of venues including hospitality businesses.

Last week, First Minister Paul Givan suggested restrictions could be lifted when the Executive next meets – and it is due to do so on Thursday.

He told the News Letter his party, the DUP, would push for the removal of vaccine passports, but it is unclear if the other four parties on the Executive would back the idea.

Dr Black, meanwhile, urged caution.

“If we ease the restrictions too rapidly we could be looking at an increase in infections,” he warned.

“We all want to end up in the same place, which is a reduction in restrictions and a return to normality but the best way to achieve that is cautiously and carefully.

“It would certainly be our hope that we can move in that direction.”

He continued: “I think it’s fair to say that our worst expectations haven’t been reached. The peak of infections was probably last week or this week.

“My own practice in Derry, a lot of the people we are seeing are coming in with complications after Covid – persistent coughs, headaches, profound tiredness, some palpitations.

“So, you now ask yourself the question: ‘has everyone who was going to catch it already caught it, or if we loosen restrictions will we see another wave’.

“You would hope, at this stage, with 95% of the population having antibodies from either infection or immuninisation, that we would have some resilience.”

He added: “I would emphasise that the biggest part of the story is that the vaccinations, particularly the boosters, have prevented the concerns we had around hospitalisations.”