Ireland

Taoiseach warns north's rising Covid-19 cases could be repeated in Republic 'if we allow things to get out of control'

Some hospitals in the north remain over capacity as the health service struggles to deal with the coronavirus crisis
Some hospitals in the north remain over capacity as the health service struggles to deal with the coronavirus crisis

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has warned that Northern Ireland's escalating Covid-19 figures could be repeated in the Republic if "we allow things to get out of control".

Mr Martin said the number of coronavirus cases in the north is "very worrying and concerning".

He said the positivity rate in Northern Ireland is about 9%.

Mr Martin told the Dáil that Government officials will mee the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) weekly to keep an eye on Northern Ireland's Covid-19 figures.

Today, the Department of Health in Northern Ireland reported another 510 new cases of the virus.

Mr Martin said: "It is not clear that testing there is at the same level as here. The numbers have been worrying for quite some time.

"There will be a meeting of the North-South Ministerial Council on Friday, which will be held virtually because of the Covid-19 situation. We will work with our colleagues on the Northern Ireland Executive. Any assistance we can offer will always be available.

"There has been ongoing contact between clinicians in the two health systems either side of the border, and my understanding is that the Minister of Health, Robin Swann, will bring proposals to the Executive. He has led well throughout this crisis. He has had to deal with a challenging situation.

"We have a strong testing capacity, nonetheless we must be very vigilant now because what we are witnessing in Northern Ireland could happen here if we allow things to get out of control, which we will not do.

"The border counties in particular are a worry for us."

Last night, 17 ambulances containing patients were lined up outside Antrim Area Hospital ED and doctors were treating patients in the car park.

Labour leader Alan Kelly said there is growing unease about the management of Covid-19 in Northern Ireland.

"The scale of the crisis in Northern Ireland is a situation we have never seen before," Mr Kelly added.

"I am deeply concerned about how the Executive, composed of Sinn Fein and the DUP, is dealing with this issue.

"We have reached a point where instead of playing politics, trying to be on both sides of many arguments, bickering and dithering, our Government needs to state very clearly that the Executive's way of dealing with this crisis is not working.

"This is having huge consequences for the rest of us on this island.

"The infection rate in Northern Ireland is now four times the rate in the south. The difference in infection rates is alarming.

"The people of the north have been let down.

"There has been a knock-on effect on our border areas and further afield. The 14-day incidence rate in Donegal is the highest in the state at 225 per 100,000.

"The Taoiseach and the government must make it very clear to the Executive, which does not have experience in making hard decisions, that it is going to have to change tack and quickly."