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Belfast hospitals cancel elective surgeries as Covid-19 swirls

Our elderly are relatively mildly ill so far

By Amanda Ferguson

Elective surgeries have been cancelled across Belfast this week due to a rise in COVID-19 admissions, the Northern Ireland body that runs the city’s hospitals said on Tuesday as the devolved government debated whether to impose new restrictions.

The British-run region has become one of Europe’s biggest COVID-19 hotbeds in recent weeks; its health minister has described the situation as getting more grave by the hour, with further constraints likely to be imposed soon.

The city’s main COVID-19 facility, the Mater Hospital, was caring for 10 ventilated patients on Tuesday, one less than capacity, the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust, adding that more will likely require critical care in the coming days.

Intensive Care Unit capacity is being expanded at another hospital, the trust added. “This decision was extremely difficult and one that we did not want to have to make,” Belfast Trust Medical Director Chris Hagan said in a statement.

“We have, however, seen a significant rise in admissions related to COVID-19 in recent days and feel it is now necessary to move to this stage in our surge plan to ensure we can continue to deliver safe levels of care.”

A source familiar with the plans told Reuters earlier that the cancelled operations included some cancer procedures.

Northern Ireland’s health department reported 863 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, bringing its cumulative seven-day rate of infections per 100,000 people to 334.1.

Restrictions on how pubs and restaurants operate in Northern Ireland are currently not as strict as they are in many areas elsewhere in the United Kingdom or across the open border in Ireland.

Northern Ireland’s power-sharing government met on Tuesday to discuss the rise in cases but its two main parties, the Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Fein, have disagreed in public on how strict any new measures should be.

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