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CORONAVIRUS: NI ‘surge plans’ announced

STORMONT Health Minister Robin Swann has detailed the first phase of health service surge plan measures to deal with growing transmission of Covid-19.

A core aim of the surge plans – covering the immediate period to mid-April – is to prioritise essential services and free up capacity across the system.

The Minister spelt out the plans in a written statement to the Assembly.

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He stated: “Our health service will fast become unrecognisable. Changes that would have seemed unthinkable weeks ago will become the new norm. Decisions that would previously have taken months or even years will be taken in hours.”

He also stated: “If social distancing and other measures are implemented by the population, with a combined effect they could reduce the peak by some 50% and reduce deaths by up to a third. Planning assumptions also indicate that 8% of infected people will require hospitalisation, 0.7% will require critical care, and 1% will die – although these figures will vary highly depending on age and other health factors.

“There is no doubt that these measures come at a cost. They will be difficult for people to stick to. They will have significant social and economic impacts. But they will save lives.”

The Minister praised staff across the health and social care sector, stating: “I am proud of you and I commit to giving you my full support in the days and months ahead.  The words ‘thank you’ seem woefully inadequate in the circumstances but they still need to be said – on behalf of everyone across our society.”

Mr Swann also appealed to the general public.

“We all must continue to rigidly follow the advice on hand-washing and ‘catch it, bin it, kill it’ when we cough or sneeze and use a tissue.  I cannot emphasise this enough. This will help keep more of our family members, neighbours and friends well and by doing so reduce pressures on our health service. As I have already stated publicly, doing the right thing is essential if the health and social care system is to get through this.

“This also includes following all the social distancing guidance to the letter, not just today, tomorrow and next week but throughout the months ahead, for as long as it takes.”

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