Givan says NI should not expect all Covid restrictions to drop this week as four more fatalities announced

First Minister Paul Givan has said he does not expect to see all remaining Covid restrictions in Northern Ireland lifted at this week’s Executive meeting.

By The Newsroom
Tuesday, 21st September 2021, 3:31 pm
Updated Tuesday, 21st September 2021, 3:35 pm

He was speaking just as the latest Covid key stats show four further deaths of patients who had tested positive for the illness in Northern Ireland.

The Department of Health said there had also been 1,145 new confirmed cases in the last 24-hour reporting period.

On Tuesday morning there were 384 Covid-19 patients in hospital, with 32 in intensive care.

First Minister Paul Givan and Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill pictured holding a press conference after their visit to the Royal Victoria Hospital in west Belfast today (Sept 21, 2021)

A total of 2,508,203 vaccines have been administered.

Mr Givan visited the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast on Tuesday along with deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill, where they heard about pressures being faced by frontline staff due to the pandemic.

Ms O’Neill reiterated her view that she is not prepared to rule out a further lockdown in Northern Ireland but stressed she wanted to avoid the imposition of further restrictions.

The Stormont Executive is due to meet on Thursday to discuss remaining Covid restrictions, and also to discuss plans to deal with a winter surge of the virus.

Mr Givan had previously said he wanted to see all remaining Covid restrictions eased by the end of September.

But speaking about this week’s Executive meeting, he told the media: “I would hope that we will see some progress on Thursday, but I don’t anticipate seeing all of the restrictions being lifted.”

Mr Givan said the DUP would be taking a “measured” approach to the easing of remaining regulations.

He said: “Whenever we come to the meeting on Thursday, of course we will be guided by all of the factors that we need to take into account. That is our health service, also what is happening in our economy, the impacts on community, family.

“That has been the approach we have taken over the past number of months where we have been able to take gradual measures. Other jurisdictions held the line and then allowed everything to reopen, and we have taken an approach which has been measured, and on Thursday we will take the same approach.”

He added: “So, there are multiple reasons as to why our hospitals are under pressure, Covid is one of them and we need to take balanced decisions, and we will take that approach as a party coming into Thursday, and I would hope that we can make some progress which is proportionate to the level of the risks.”

Ms O’Neill said it was clear that a “very cautious” approach is needed.

She added: “It’s very clear we have to factor in the state of the health service and the challenges facing our healthcare workers on a day-on-day basis.

“So, I think it has to be steady as you go, it has to be very cautious.

“I’ve always been very open enough to say that I never rule out anything, I keep everything on the table, I think that’s the prudent way to proceed, it’s also the honest way to proceed.

“However, I don’t want to get to a scenario where you have to have a circuit-breaker or lockdown – I want to avoid that. The best way to avoid that is to take the prudent approach, to take the cautious approach, to take a preventative approach.”

Asked whether nightclubs will get a road map for reopening on Thursday, she said: “I don’t expect to see us being able to make huge strides forward in terms of that. I understand the hospitality sector have been hardest hit and we need to do all we can to support them.”

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