Northern Ireland news

GP urges public to 'keep being cautious' as Covid cases climb

A minute's silence is observed for the dead on the 2nd anniversary of lockdown in Belfast. Picture by Hugh Russell

A GP has urged the public to "keep being cautious" amid a rise in Covid cases - on the second anniversary of the first lockdown.

Dr Alan Stout, Chairman of the GP committee with the British Medical Association (BMA) in Northern Ireland, said while there was a "feeling of back to normality" people still need to "follow the guidance".

The number of positive cases in the north has seen a steady increase in recent days. On Tuesday, there were 2,899, up from 2,007 on Monday and 1,798 on Friday.

The rise came ahead of the second anniversary of the first Covid-19 lockdown.

On March 23, 2020, with the UK death toll hitting 335 deaths and with three deaths reported in Northern Ireland, Boris Johnson announced a 'Stay at Home' order.

Yesterday, a series of events took place around Northern Ireland to remember those who died during the pandemic.

During the National Day of Reflection, a minute's silence was observed while there was a candlelit vigil at Belfast City Hall last night. Other councils also planned to last night light up buildings in yellow, including Belfast City Hall, Titanic Belfast, and the Guildhall Clock in Derry.

Speaking to The Irish News, Dr Alan Stout said a rise in cases at this time of year was "unusual" and "worrying".

"Going into spring, we would hope, as we see better weather and lighter evenings, in many ways, the hope would be the risks starts to slow down. It is worrying we are seeing an increase," he said.

"Outdoors has always been better than indoors. You are much less likely to be spreading infection outdoors than indoors. The bottom line is we still have high infection levels.

"There is no question that it is linked to the easing of the legal requirements and the guidance is still there about wearing face masks and social distancing."

Dr Stout the figures were due to Omicron and the BA.2 variant "which is very, very transmissable".

"Fortunately, we are not seeing that translate into the serious illness and intensive care and deaths which is because of the vaccine, which is clearly protecting people. We are lucky it is a milder variant," he said.

He advised people to "follow the guidance that we are all so familiar with over the last two years and get the vaccine when it is due, at whatever stage of the vaccine programme you are at."

"The risk we are running is having a high vaccine uptake with a high circulating virus and that actually puts us at risk of getting a vaccine resistant variant," he said.

"There's not an expert in the world would confidently tell you this is over. We have a feeling of back to normality but to urge people to follow the guidance and keep being cautious."

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