Northern Ireland set to enter six-week lockdown from Boxing Day | World news

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Northern Ireland is preparing for a sweeping lockdown and the deployment of paramedics from the Republic of Ireland in an effort to control Covid-19.

Health officials on Thursday proposed a six-week lockdown and approved a plan to reinforce the ambulance service with units from across the border.

The Stormont executive was expected to confirm the new restrictions on Thursday night. PA Media reported the lockdown will begin on 26 December and last six weeks, with a review after four weeks.

All non-essential retail and close contact services such as beauty salons are to close, with pubs, cafes and restaurants restricted to takeaway services. It is understood there will be no changes made to the Christmas bubbling arrangements but that anyone visiting another household must leave by 28 December.

Wales has announced similar restrictions which start on 24 December.

The developments came as the pandemic claimed another 12 lives in the region, raising the death toll to 1,154, and a further 656 cases were recorded, a sharp rise from previous days that underlined a sense of crisis. Hospitals are at over-capacity, forcing ambulances at times to queue outside emergency departments for hours while patients wait to be admitted.

Authorities in Dublin have agreed to in effect lend paramedics from Ireland’s national ambulance service to the overstretched colleagues in the Northern Ireland ambulance service (NIAS).

The units, using their own vehicles, are expected to start working across the border from Friday and to operate in Belfast, Craigavon and Lisburn.

“This additional capacity is very welcome and NIAS are extremely grateful to our colleagues in NAS and their staff for agreeing to, for the second time over the past 12 months, lend their support at a challenging time,” the service said in a statement.

It cited “challenges” in serving Northern Ireland because some personnel with or suspected of having Covid-19 had to self-isolate.

Tom Black, the chair of the British Medical Association in Northern Ireland, warned this week that the region’s health service was facing a “nightmare”. Gabriel Scally, a public health expert and a member of the Independent Sage committee, said Northern Ireland’s government had bungled the pandemic and that the health service was on the brink of being overwhelmed.

After driving infection rates to the lowest in Europe, and far below that of Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland is now also seeing a sharp rise, with the reproduction number now between 1.1 and 1.3. Health officials on Thursday proposed curbing a planned relaxation of restrictions over Christmas.

Hafta Ichi
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Northern Ireland set to enter six-week lockdown from Boxing Day | World news

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