Continuing unease in DUP ranks over Covid lockdown policy

DUP MLA Paul Frew has again expressed his concerns over the anti-Covid lockdown measures, as a row flares over Sammy Wilson’s attack on a doctors’ spokesperson.

Thursday, 5th November 2020, 11:38 am

Mr Frew, who previously denounced the restrictions his party helped devise as a “shame” and “disgrace,” said forcing businesses to remain closed was preventing people from earning a living.

On Thursday morning he tweeted: “No surprise to me some Executive members had the intent all along of extending lockdown depriving folk from earning a living & providing for their families. The cruel thing for my constituents forced to close their business is that they haven’t received one bean of support since.”

Earlier on Thursday, DUP MP Sammy Wilson labelled Dr Tom Black, chair of the BMA in Northern Ireland, “irresponsible” for advocating stricter lockdown measures due to pressures on the healthcare system.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

In a BBC NI radio interview, Mr Wilson said: “Very poor people who work in the hospitality sector and who are not well paid and who are living day-to-day to make ends meet – it’s okay for a well heeled doctor to talk about ignore the economic consequences of a close down but it’s another thing for the people who will be the victims of that to have to live with it and I think his views were totally irresponsible.”

Speaking on the Nolan Show, Dr Black responded, saying: “I usually find if someone personalises the argument they know they have lost the substance of the argument.

“I have great respect for Sammy because the public in his area have voted him and he has a mandate to express the views of his public but he shouldn’t personalise the argument and say things like he has said.”

The Northern Ireland Executive is due to lift the current ‘circuit breaker’ lockdown on November 13, but there is a strong lobby to extend the restrictions until at least the end of November.

Former DUP MLA Jimmy Spratt has also expressed concern over questioning the advice of the medical profession – saying the critics should “wise up”.

While the Nolan Show was still on air, Mr Spratt tweeted: “When you personalise an argument you usually have lost the argument. I think people prefer to listen to our medical experts just look at what’s happening hospitals full, nurses and doctors at full capacity, in many cases staff exhausted and having to isolate. I say again wise up.”