Northern Ireland news

Terrified health workers ask 'should we draw up wills'

Seanin Graham

TERRIFIED health workers are asking if they should be drawing up their wills amid fears they may not survive the Covid-19 pandemic.

A nursing chief last night said frontline staff are "worried for their lives" due to a lack of protective clothing.

Royal College of Nursing director Pat Cullen issued the stark warning as:

:: Doctors demanded a "complete lockdown" as the health system prepares for a surge in coronavirus cases.

:: Three more deaths were confirmed in Northern Ireland, bringing the total to 13. A week ago there had been just one death.

:: Workers at a Dungannon food plant became the latest to walk out over concerns about social distancing, amid continuing confusion over which businesses can stay open.

It emerged yesterday that the virus had spread to the heart of the British government, with prime minister Boris Johnson and health secretary Matt Hancock testing positive and England's Chief Medical Officer, Prof Chris Whitty, showing symptoms.

The UK death toll rose by 181 to 759, the biggest day-on-day increase so far, with the rate of infection doubling every three to four days.

Healthcare workers have expressed alarm about a lack of protection from the disease while working on the frontline.

Stormont finance minister Conor Murphy yesterday said a "significant" consignment of personal protective equipment (PPE) has been ordered from China in a joint order with the Irish government.

However, Pat Cullen last night said she has been inundated with calls from nurses working in hospitals and the community.

"Some of these nurses know they are at seriously at risk and are ringing me in tears. They're saying to me, 'Am I going to leave behind my young family'," she told The Irish News.

"They want to take care of their families and they're asking should they make out wills. It's just heartbreaking."

She said nurses are often saying the equipment is far below the standard needed and one even told how they had to wash and share goggles and visors.

"It's like asking a solider to share a gun with another soldier in the middle of a war," she said.

Health chiefs have insisted that ensuring the safety staff who dealing with Covid-19 patients is an "absolute priority".

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