Coronavirus shows cracks in Stormont executive

By Marie-Louise Connolly
BBC News NI Health Correspondent

Stay home, save live road signImage source, PA Media

There is never a good time for political disharmony - let alone during a pandemic.

While the public crave a united political front, unfortunately this week in Northern Ireland we saw cracks shining through in the uneasy alliance that is the Stormont executive.

With political rows there is the danger of the public health message, which was being pushed so effectively last week, being overshadowed.

As Northern Ireland stares into the barrel of this surge, which is expected to peak between the 6 and 20 April, we cannot afford for that message to be buried.

Image source, PA Media
Image caption,
Arlene Foster and Michelle O'Neill have shared different messages this week

Fightback is the only comeback.

The public has mostly been playing its part - staying in for most of us has become the new norm.

But it is becoming increasingly difficult watching what is unfolding outside from inside.

In a week the death toll in Northern Ireland has risen alarmingly from 13 to 48.

Overall in the UK, 3,605 people have died while in the Republic of Ireland 120 families are grieving.

Stroke of a pen

In a week there have been massive changes to the health service.

What once would have taken consultations and countless reviews to achieve, is instead done at the stroke of a pen, creating 10 treatment centres, the “temporary” closure of EDs and cancer services and patients moved from one hospital to another.

While in the background these changes are happening at an alarming pace, on the front line there remains the “scramble” and “chasing” of tests and equipment.

Why this panic when we have known about the pandemic for months?

Image source, PAcemaker
Image caption,
A testing centre at the SSE arena in Belfast is due to open this weekend

While claps for our health workers are great, the assurance and delivery of PPE would be even better.

Testing for healthcare workers is due to begin in Belfast over the weekend using kits from local firm Randox – something doctors and nurses have been crying out for.

Good Friday

Another week has gone by when we haven’t been able to hug our loved ones including older parents.

Despite numerous video and phone calls they must feel as far away from their families as ever.

Next week is holy week, normally a time of expectation and holiday.

But this year, Good Friday is falling at the start of this so called surge.

At this stage it’s hard to see beyond that.

In the meantime keep your social distance, keep in touch and keep looking forward to the other side.