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Spreading of Covid restriction misinformation branded ‘disgraceful’ by O’Neill

By PA News

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Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill, accompanied by chair of the Stormont Health Committee Colm Gildernew (Rebecca Black/PA)

Michelle O’Neill has lashed out at the spreading of misinformation over further Covid-19 restrictions, branding it “absolutely disgraceful”.

The deputy First Minister said there are currently no plans to introduce further restrictions before Christmas.

“Times are hard enough, times are challenging enough so I would encourage everybody to take their information directly from ourselves who are elected in the Executive, the Public Health Agency and the department of health,” she said.

“Those that are engaged in disinformation is just shameful and it is causing confusion that people don’t need.

“We have had an assessment around where we’re at, and I think we’re probably past the peak in terms of the Delta variant. That’s good, however there is no room to be complacent.

“I have asked the question directly of the Department of Health, ‘are we doing enough right now’, and the answer to that question was that we are.”

Ms O’Neill said the Executive is concerned about the emergence of the new variant Omicron, but emphasised that as things stand and if the public adhere to public health messaging, enough is being done.

“I think it’s going to be an uncertain period for the next number of weeks however we don’t expect, at this moment in time, to be asking people to do more,” she said.

“We’re asking people to comply and double up on all of our efforts in terms of our own personal decisions.”

Asked about discussions over further coronavirus restrictions in the Republic of Ireland, Ms O’Neill said she does not believe there has been enough north-south co-ordination throughout the pandemic.

“I think that’s unfortunate and probably for a whole raft of reasons but we have always advocated an all-island approach, I think it made sense, we had an island advantage that I don’t think was properly exploited,” she said.

“I am aware that Nphet is meeting with the cabinet in Dublin today.

“We had an Executive meeting yesterday and I asked that very question directly of the Department of Health and of the Health Minister, ‘are we doing enough today’, and I was told the answer to that question is yes.

“I have always followed the advice of the chief medical officer, the chief scientific adviser, and obviously we have to be prepared to respond as is required, but for today what we’re doing is enough.

“But we need to double down on the basic messaging and asking people to make good personal choices.”

Ms O’Neill was speaking to media at the Mater Hospital in Belfast following a meeting with representatives from the Royal College of Surgeons.

Meanwhile health minister Robin Swann has said people will be able to use their alongside photographic ID to gain access to premises covered by the Covid certification scheme for an interim period.

The Health Minister revealed that 86,000 people have applied to the domestic certification scheme this week.

But he also said that a helpline to give assistance to those applying for the paper or digital certificates is currently dealing with 3,000 calls a day.

Mr Swann urged more people to apply for the certificates which are mandatory in licensed premises, as well as cinemas and theatres.

A further four deaths of patients who had previously tested positive for Covid-19 and another 1,908 cases of the virus were notified in Northern Ireland on Friday.

On Friday morning, there were 326 Covid-positive patients in hospital, of whom 30 were in intensive care.

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