Covid-19: Health minister expects more restrictions before Christmas

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Media caption,
Further restrictions before Christmas predicted

The Health Minister Robin Swann has said he fears he will have to ask for "further [Covid-19] restrictions before Christmas".

His comments came just hours before his department confirmed nine more Covid-19 related deaths in Northern Ireland.

The proposal was tabled by the DUP Economy Minister Diane Dodds.

He said he had no choice but to back the proposal because it was "better than everything falling".

"I did not get what I wanted," he told BBC News NI's Sunday Politics programme.

'Reluctantly' supported

"I wanted the regulations to continue for another two weeks," he said.

"That was to drive down the infection rate which would see a decrease in the number of people we have in hospital due to Covid-19," he added.

The economy minister described her plan as "balanced and proportionate," however this was rejected by Mr Swann.

"I supported it reluctantly and my concerns were minuted," he said.

'Diane's proposal or nothing'

"It was Diane's proposal or nothing - we'd run out of time. I'm embarrassed and ashamed it took us until Thursday to come up with an agreement," he added.

He also said the cross-community mechanism, which was used by the DUP to block proposals to extend the regulations, would have been deployed again if he had brought any further proposal.

He said extending restrictions had been portrayed as a "green and orange issue".

"I'm a unionist minister. A cross-community vote was used against a health recommendation that I brought forward to extend these regulations by two weeks," he told the programme.

He said he did not think that when hospitality re-opens on the 27 November it will be "the way we knew it".

"There will be additional things put in place which will be worked out," he said.

"We'll come forward with a number of recommendations and regulations about curtailing the spread of Covid-19," he added.

Asked if he would be considering his position, in the way that Justice Minister Naomi Long has said she was, he said his position was a "responsibility and duty".

"If I had a breaking point and a bottom line I'm not going to broadcast it now," he added.

"My sympathies lie with our health care staff and those who rely on it," he said, when asked about criticism of the regulations from the British Medical Association (BMA).

"I supported the compromise because it was better than nothing."

Mrs Long told Mark Carruthers it was "very clear the DUP were not going to concede".

"At that point it was 'get a compromise or let all the restrictions fall' and I could not countenance that," she said.

Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon told the programme that the last week in the executive has "been the lowest point" she has ever experienced.

On Sunday it was reported that nine more people had died in Northern Ireland after contracting Covid-19.

The deaths reported by the Department of Health included seven from the most recent 24-hour period, and two which occurred previously.

Image source, Getty Images

It brings the total number of deaths recorded by the department to 855.

There were also a further 472 positive Covid-19 tests reported on Sunday, while the number of people in intensive care stood at 49, with 39 requiring ventilation support.

In the Republic of Ireland, one more Covid-19 related death was recorded on Sunday, bringing the total number of deaths there to 1,979.