Almost all medicines in Northern Ireland will be disrupted by the EU border in the Irish Sea, warns Stormont’s health minister Robin Swann

Almost 100% of medicines in Northern Ireland face disruption by EU border checks at the province’s ports, Health Minister Robin Swann has warned.

Sunday, 10th October 2021, 7:39 pm
Updated Monday, 11th October 2021, 10:40 am

The minister told the Ulster Unionist Party at the weekend that around 98 per cent of the local NHS’s medicines come from across the Irish Sea.

Mr Swann said that the Northern Ireland Protocol now threatens the distribution of these medicines.

In his address to the UUP conference in south Belfast, Mr Swann said:

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Health Minister Robin Swann addressing the Ulster Unionist Party conference on Saturday, where he said that 98% of local NHS medicines come from across the Irish Sea and their distribution is now threatened by the Northern Ireland Protocol. Photo by Philip Magowan/Press Eye

“We have long relied upon the free movement of supplies from Great Britain, with around 98% of our entire medicines coming across the Irish Sea.

“But under the Northern Ireland Protocol, such medicines will be handled as though they are entering the EU from a third country, and will be subject to all sorts of new checks and bureaucracy.”

The UUP Health Minister said his department was working “around the clock” to protect local patients from the impact of the protocol.

He said: “We’re all aware of the sheer number of possible discontinuations of medicines that have already been notified as a direct result of the protocol.

“But let me be clear – no matter what the European Commission may think is acceptable or a pain worth inflicting — as minister I’ll not countenance for a single second patients in Northern Ireland going without the medication they need. It’s just not going to happen.”

Mr Swann announced that very soon up to 90% of the population in Northern Ireland would be vaccinated.

He said that three quarters of the NHS’ adult Covid in-patients under the age of 50 are unvaccinated.

The minister said those aged 50 who are not vaccinated are five times more likely to be admitted to local hospitals than fully vaccinated individuals.

For adults under 50 an unvaccinated individual is 18 times more likely to be hospitalised, he said.

Unvaccinated individuals aged 50 and over are almost four times likely to die from the virus, Swann added.

On the UK wide vaccination programme, the minister said: “That is why vaccination is all the more important. The vaccination programme has been the one reliable source of hope and inspiration from the onset of the pandemic.

“If you had told me twelve months ago that the United Kingdom would be the first Western nation in the world to authorise a Covid vaccine and that Northern Ireland would be sitting here with over two and half million doses administered I probably wouldn’t have believed you.

“But we are and it’s a testament to the scientific brilliance of the United Kingdom and the sheer level of planning and aptitude displayed by all those people who have played a part in our vaccination programme.

“In fact, the importance of the Union has never been clearer than in the vaccination effort.”

The minister denounced those spreading disinformation about the vaccine programme.

“Unfortunately, whilst we have seen so many people work so hard on our vaccination effort, there have been a small minority — a tiny minority — that are determined to spread misinformation and lies.

“Whilst I absolutely appreciate there are genuine cases of vaccine hesitancy — and I and my department will continue to have those engagements and provide whatever information or reassurance is necessary — unfortunately there others who chose not to accept the truth and seem set on putting the health and wellbeing of fellow citizens at risk,” he said.

Mr Swann said the response of NHS staff in Northern Ireland to the pandemic was “humbling and inspirational”.

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