Those holding St Patrick’s Day parties ‘need to wise up’ – chief medical officer

Rebecca Black, PA
·3-min read

Northern Ireland’s chief medical officer has told those holding parties for St Patrick’s Day to “wise up” and think about families grieving the loss of a loved one to coronavirus.

Eight further deaths of patients who had previously tested positive for the virus were announced on Wednesday, as well as a further 147 cases.

Police have already broken up gatherings in the Holyland area of south Belfast ahead of March 17.

Coronavirus
PSNI officers patrol the Holyland area of Belfast (Liam McBurney/PA)

Health Minister Robin Swann also condemned scenes on Sunday of Rangers fans gathering to celebrate the Glasgow side’s Scottish Premiership victory.

Dr McBride said “some people really need to wise up and grow up”.

“People are still dealing with consequences of Covid-19, there are eight families grieving today, there are many many more people in hospital … so please everyone lets stick with this,” he said.

“We all know what we should be doing, we know what we shouldn’t be doing so please continue to do the right thing.”

He urged people to celebrate St Patrick’s Day “respectfully with your own household”, and “likewise for Easter”.

Dr McBride said he is aware some believe Northern Ireland’s plan to exit lockdown is “too cautious”, but said it is his responsibility to “spell out the public health position based on the evidence”.

The Stormont Executive’s blueprint for recovery has been criticised for not including any dates.

While the first children returned to school on Monday, Education Minister Peter Weir is pushing for a full return by all pupils to be fast tracked.

Dr McBride said, as restrictions ease and more people mix, there is an “inevitability” that case numbers will rise and more people will get sick.

“Against all of that of course, we can’t stay locked down forever, and the restrictions themselves are hugely damaging to society and to individuals,” he said.

“It is quite rightly for ministers to evaluate the public health evidence, to assess wider societal and economic consequences and to decide how we ease out of lockdown.

“None of this is easy or straight forward.

“There are many uncertainties and there’s more than one route out of this.

“I know people are fed up, they want their old lives back, I don’t only understand those views, I want that too.

“We all need to remain cautious and we all need to remain vigilant.”

Earlier the number of people vaccinated against coronavirus in Northern Ireland passed 600,000.

Coronavirus – Wed Mar 10, 2021
Health Minister Robin Swann (Press Eye/PA)

Mr Swann also confirmed that the largest delivery of vaccine yet has arrived in the region.

“They are currently being distributed to GPs … the pace of the programme will accelerate and we will be announcing the stage of the roll out early next week,” he said.

He appealed for everyone over the age of 60 to book their appointments for the jab, adding the programme will shortly be extended to younger age groups.

An expansion of the testing programme has additionally been announced for the workforce in key sectors.

“This will help us to test and find the virus and to stop it spreading,” he said.

“This expansion will involve rapid turn around tests.

“To emerge from lockdown, we need to use every instrument at our disposal to identify and target outbreaks that may occur across different parts of our society.

“New testing technologies make it possible to test at a greater scale, frequency and pace than had previously been possible.”