Coronavirus: Stormonts evidence for Covid response flimsy

Coronavirus: Stormonts evidence for Covid response flimsy

Evidence used to inform Stormont’s decisions around the Covid pandemic has been described as “shocking” by the head of Belfast’s Chamber of Commerce.

The evidence was published by the Department of Health in a paper on Tuesday.

Simon Hamilton said the paper was “flimsy” and posed “massive questions” for the executive.

The evidence includes the executive’s paper on “non-pharmaceutical options” for reducing the risk of Covid-19.

It looks at the possible effectiveness of various restrictions, including travel, personal contacts and education.

It also outlines the reasons for the four-week lockdown currently in place in Northern Ireland.

This has seen the closure of hospitality businesses, with pubs and restaurants limited to takeaway only.

It said that these closure could have a moderate impact on transmission of the virus, with a potential reduction in the reproduction (R) number of between 0.1 and 0.2, the paper said.

R is the number of people that one infected person will pass on a virus to, on average,

The paper also said the closure of close-contact businesses like hairdressers and beauticians will have a low impact on transmission with a potential reduction of the R number of 0.05.

It recognises that these closures would have a high impact on staff due to a loss of income, with the paper noting that the closure of close-contact services is “likely to disproportionately affect the poorest (and women) given employment in personal services”.

The paper, however, said that there was some evidence of transmission among hairdressers in the UK and cites a report produced by the Centre for Disease Control, the United States’ health protection agency, which suggests those who test positive are twice as likely to have eaten in a restaurant.

In a tweet, Mr Hamilton, a former DUP Stormont minister, questioned the decision to close hospitality and close-contact retail when “they knew it would have such a low impact on the R number, a high impact incomes and a disproportionate effect on the poor and women”.

Chief scientific Advisor Prof Ian Young said the published evidence will help inform discussion about the pandemic response.

Earlier on Tuesday, Prof Young said there was “strong evidence” that coronavirus restrictions imposed in the Derry City and Strabane council area are making a difference.

Leave a Reply