Extra critical care capacity not expected to be needed in NI during first wave

Extra critical care capacity is not expected to be needed in Northern Ireland during the first wave of the coronavirus infection, the health minister said.

More than 400 ventilators which aid breathing are being accumulated.

Intensive care units at present hold 38 Covid-19 patients and 40 non-Covid. A total of 56 are being ventilated, Robin Swann added.

He said: “For the time being our latest data modelling indicates that further critical care capacity will not be required during the first wave of transmission in Northern Ireland.”

Northern Ireland has 38 spare adult intensive care unit beds, the Assembly heard (NI Assembly/PA)

Northern Ireland has 38 spare adult intensive care unit beds.

A total of 197 ventilators are available and further orders will bring that to more than 400 if required, the minister said.

Northern Ireland’s worst case scenario for deaths from the virus has reduced from 15,000 to 1,500, modelling suggests.

The region is planning for a potential second wave of infection once social distancing restrictions are eased.

Global coronavirus cases and deaths graphic
(PA Graphics)

First Minister Arlene Foster has said Northern Ireland may emerge from lockdown quicker than other parts of the UK.

The health minister said testing was continuing to increase as “rapidly as possible”.

As of Wednesday, 16,378 had been checked for the virus.

Mr Swann told Stormont’s health committee of Assembly members that Northern Ireland had achieved its aim of completing 1,100 tests a day.

Chief medical officer Dr Michael McBride said: “We will not test this virus into submission.

“This virus is not going away. We need to use our testing capacity intelligently.”

Mrs Foster said lockdown measures will be eased when certain scientific and public health criteria are met and not against set timelines or dates.

In an interview with Cool FM, she said the executive is also set to provide more clarity on the controversial issue over whether people should be able to travel to take part in exercise.

But she ruled out the introduction of a distance restriction – such as the 2kms in operation in the Irish Republic – to ensure people exercised locally.

The impact of coronavirus has not been as severe in Northern Ireland as other parts of the UK. The region had recorded 250 deaths in the pandemic by Wednesday.

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