Sinn Fein calls for recall of Stormont amid Omicron wave

Sinn Fein MLAs are calling for the recall of the Stormont Assembly as Northern Ireland grapples with the latest wave of the coronavirus pandemic.

Pat Sheehan has submitted a recall motion to the Assembly to see MLAs return early to discuss the reopening of schools and other issues.

Health Committee chairman Colm Gildernew said he has also asked if that committee can be recalled to hear from minister Robin Swann.

Colm Gildernew has asked for the recall of the Health Committee (Rebecca Black/PA)

Earlier this week, the region’s chief scientific adviser Professor Ian Young said it is likely that as many as one in ten people in some areas have or had Covid-19 over the festive period.

The latest figures from the Department of Health, published on Tuesday, revealed a further 15 deaths of patients who had previously tested positive and another 30,423 cases.

Prof Young said he expects the peak of the Omicron wave to happen in the coming weeks in terms of cases and mid-late January in terms of the impact on hospitals.

Teachers’ unions have warned the return of children to the classroom will lead to a further increase in transmission and that members had concerns about contact tracing as well as staffing levels.

Mr Gildernew described the latest figures as “extremely concerning”.

He said the latest wave is presenting challenges across society in terms of staff absences in the health service as well as in schools.

“We are very, very keen to keep schools open, there is no question about that, open and safe, and in light of that my colleague Pat Sheehan has submitted a recall motion to the Assembly to bring the Assembly back to discuss how the issue is going to be managed in terms of schools as part of the overall picture,” he told BBC Radio Ulster.

“I have also asked that the Health Committee be recalled so that we can take a view from the minister in relation to where things are at at the present time and how we are going to move forward in a way that supports staff and safeguards services.”

Meanwhile, the chair of Community Pharmacy NI has said demand for lateral flow tests is outstripping supply.

We have been liaising with the Department of Health hopefully to increase the supply but, at the minute, it’s just a matter of being patient, if the public can realise that pharmacies are under significant pressure

Peter Rice, Community Pharmacy NI

The tests can be ordered online from government or picked up in some pharmacies.

Peter Rice said each pharmacy only gets one box of lateral flow tests per day, which in some cases can be used up within an hour of receiving it.

“The Omicron variant has led to a significant increase in cases and also a significant change in how the testing is required, so instead of PCRs people now want LFTs and that has really ramped up the demand and meant that we just can’t get the tests quickly enough to satisfy what the customers want,” he said.

“The supply is dealt with through one of our wholesalers that go to pharmacies daily but they’re obviously having to focus on the supply of medicine first and foremost, and it means that each pharmacy only gets one box of lateral flow tests per day, and in some cases that box is used up within the first hour or so of receiving it.

“We have been liaising with the Department of Health hopefully to increase the supply but, at the minute, it’s just a matter of being patient, if the public can realise that pharmacies are under significant pressure.”


Douglas Mateo

Douglas holds a position as a content writer at Neptune Pine. His academic qualifications in journalism and home science have offered her a wide base from which to line various topics. He has a proficiency in scripting articles related to the Health industry, including new findings, disease-related, or epidemic-related news. Apart from this, Douglas writes an independent blog and assists people in living healthy life.

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