Doctors have said Stormont’s decision to lift the coronavirus rules despite mounting pressure on health services is “utter madness.”
Dr Tom Black, chairman of BMA’s Northern Ireland board, said the eases planned for the end of the month would ultimately lead to more deaths from Covid-19.
He called the move “stupid” as he warned the region’s health system was facing its “worst crisis ever” this winter as it faced the “triple whammy” of Covid, to winter pressures and spiraling waiting lists.
Dr Black’s comments came amid signs of growing divisions within the power-sharing administration over the plans, with Alliance Party and SDLP ministers insisting that the easing should only continue. only if they are accompanied by compulsory vaccination passports.
Nightclubs are set to reopen in Northern Ireland on October 31, and social distancing rules that currently limit capacity in bars and restaurants will shift from regulation to guidance.
People will also be able to move freely in the reception areas from this date, including being able to stand at the bar for a drink.
Indoor dancing will also resume in the hospitality sector at the end of the month.
The decisions were taken in early October and at an executive meeting on Thursday, ministers agreed to continue the process.
They also confirmed that night clubbers would not have to wear masks when dancing or in environments involving eating or drinking.
Dr Black told BBC Radio Ulster: “If you open up the nightclubs to young people who are not vaccinated, they will increase the rate of infection, it will increase hospital admissions, it will increase mortality. “
He said the planned relaxations were “utter madness and stupidity.”
“We have relaxed the restrictions for this group of people in our community who have failed to get vaccinated,” he added.
“We have 25% of 18 to 29 year olds unvaccinated, 21% of 30 to 39 year olds, and what do we do with them? We say “you know what, you can go out, you can eat, you can drink, you can dance, forget the masks, forget about social distancing”.
“‘You are the most at risk group, please come out and spread the infection then take it back to your grandmother.’
“This is the response of healthcare professionals to this.”
Dr Black added: “We are overwhelmed at the moment. Now is not the time to relax the restrictions, it is the time to turn to those people who are not vaccinated and say to them “you let us down, you betray your friends, your relatives and your grand- mother, you are out there, mixing together, spreading the infection ”.
“It seeps into the elderly and people end up in the hospital and die because our young people will not be vaccinated – it is not enough.”
The Chairman of the Board of BMA NI continued, “We are entering the worst crisis ever – this winter is going to be much worse than last winter.
“Why? Because the triple whammy of the Covid, the winter pressures, the waiting lists. And we must tighten our belts, do the right thing and not indulge in wishful thinking.”
It emerged that Alliance Justice Minister Naomi Long wrote to other ministers ahead of Thursday’s executive meeting to express concern over the proposed relaxation of rules on wearing face masks in women. host institutions.
City AM understands they have warned that such a move could result in a significant increase in transmission.
The minister also pointed out that the relaxation of the rules on face coverings in the hospitality sector could influence the public attitude towards the hygiene measure and inadvertently lead to a decline in compliance in the hospitality sector. other sectors where face masks remain compulsory.
Ms Long urged ministers to consider making Covid vaccine passports mandatory in high-risk environments such as nightclubs.
As it stands, the executive urged sites to voluntarily introduce certification schemes whereby customers wishing to enter would have to show their vaccination status, a negative side flow test result, or proof of infection. positive in the past six months.
Ms. Long warned ministers that there was evidence that some clients were reluctant to provide such evidence when it was not a legal requirement.
SDLP Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon also called on her executive colleagues to introduce mandatory vaccine passports.
His party leader Colum Eastwood said Friday: “The decision to open and reduce restrictions at nightclubs on Halloween night without introducing a mandatory vaccine certification program is patently irresponsible.
“People are still hospitalized because of this virus, every day people get sick and some die. As we enter a difficult winter period, it is a time to be vigilant not to open the doors and throw in the face coverings. “