Relaxation of Christmas rules ‘unlikely to change’ after crunch Health meeting

Sterner warnings about the dangers of mixing over Christmas are to be issued by the four UK nations later.

By Gemma Murray
Wednesday, 16th December 2020, 9:33 am

But the rules allowing three households to meet are expected to remain in place, according to the BBC.

The plans for 23-27 December will be discussed in a call between officials.

In Northern Ireland between 23 and 27 December the rules allow up to three households to form a bubble and stay overnight at each other’s homes over a five-day period.

Belfast city centre after it re-opened last week. (Photo: Pacemaker Press)

Labour has called for the measures over Christmas to be reviewed, while two leading journals said the “rash” decision to ease restrictions would “cost many lives”.

In a joint editorial, the British Medical Journal and Health Service Journal stressed that demand on the NHS was increasing, adding that a new strain of coronavirus - identified in both England and Wales - “has introduced further potential jeopardy”.

News of high level meetings on Christmas rules came as there continues to be “severe pressure” on Antrim Area Hospital, after a night which saw queuing ambulances outside hospitals across Northern Ireland.

This morning, the Northern Trust, which oversees the hospital, said there were no waiting ambulances outside the hospital.

Medical staff return a bed to an ambulance at Antrim Area Hospital, Co Antrim in Northern Ireland. PA Photo

But last night (Tuesday) doctors treated patients in ambulances with 17 vehicles outside the hospital at one point.

This morning at 7am the BBC are reporting that there were 48 people in the Emergency Department.

Of these, 43 were waiting to be admitted, with 29 of those people who have been waiting for more than 12 hours.

In a statement, the trust said it was “not a situation that anyone wants to see”, adding that the hospital remained under “severe pressure”.

Ambulances at the entrance to the emergency department with a number of the vehicle with patients awaiting to be admitted, at Antrim Area Hospita

“We sincerely apologise to the patients affected and their families. Staff are working very hard to try to manage the situation and maintain flow,” the trust said.

Medical Director with the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service Dr Nigel Ruddell said there had been 30 to 35 ambulances outside Emergency Departments across Northern Ireland on Tuesday night.

He said they were “the most significant queues” he had seen in the 12 years he had worked for the ambulance service.

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