Arlene Foster and Michelle O’Neill to attend emergency meetings on Covid-19

Northern Ireland’s First and Deputy First Ministers have scaled back a US investment trip to take part in emergency meetings on Covid-19.

Arlene Foster said the infection was the top priority of ministers in Belfast.

She and Michelle O’Neill cancelled plans for the New York leg of their itinerary at the start of next week.

Mrs Foster told the BBC’s Good Morning Ulster programme: “Our top priority as leaders of the Executive is to make sure we are in a good position in relation to Covid-19 and the coronavirus and that we have all the planning in place.

“So we took the decision over the weekend that we felt we needed to be here for emergency meetings that take place on Monday of next week.

“It is important that we are part of that and that we are involved in that so that is why we have decided to limit the trip.”

The DUP leader and Sinn Fein vice president are still anticipated to travel to Washington DC for a series of political meetings in the US capital later in the week.

Health officials in Northern Ireland have said routine hospital appointments and surgeries may be postponed if Covid-19 infects large numbers of people.

Wards could be set aside and more critical care beds added to the 100 already available.

Chief medical officer Dr Michael McBride
Chief medical officer Dr Michael McBride (Michael McHugh/PA)

Drive-through screening, establishment of special pods separate from emergency departments and home testing kits may be needed if the virus spreads widely through the community.

The aim is to “flatten” the main community transmission peak and delay it until summer when services are less stretched.

Medical staff are in a phase of containment, Northern Ireland’s chief medical officer, Dr Michael McBride, said.

He added: “What we are doing is planning for all eventualities.”

One person in Northern Ireland has been diagnosed with the condition.

Around 99% of people affected will make a full recovery, while 95% will suffer mild to moderate symptoms which will not require hospital treatment, Dr McBride added.

That is based on data from the source of the infection in China and those numbers will change as officials receive information from European systems more aligned with Northern Ireland’s.

Read Full Story

FROM OUR PARTNERS