Ambulance delays treble as Northern Ireland battles UK’s highest Covid-19 case rate

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The ambulance service has said hospital wait times in Northern Ireland have tripled as the country continues its struggle against the highest coronavirus case rate in the UK.

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According to Dr Nigel Rudell, medical director of the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service (NIAS), some patients have had to wait as long as six hours to be admitted for treatment.

Meanwhile, a hospital is forced to send ambulances to other emergency departments to clear the roadblocks.


Dr Rudell told sky News: “We are bringing these patients in in an emergency and ideally, we want them to start receiving their definitive treatment as soon as possible.

“If we are waiting outside the emergency department of a hospital sometimes for six hours or more, then clearly there is a delay in treatment.

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“In terms of our staff, they are constantly concerned about other patients in the community who are awaiting an ambulance response and that response has been significantly delayed.”

Starting in the first week of November, the most recent data shows the case rate in Northern Ireland rose from 420 per 100,000 people to less than 600 over the course of a fortnight. The figures show an increase of 40 per cent.

In Wales, the infection rate is currently around 500 per 100,000 people. In both England and Scotland the number is around 400.

This comes after new work-from-home guidance was issued in Northern Ireland. Ministers also urged people to limit their social interactions and wear face coverings in crowded or indoor settings.

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said the measures were the best chance of avoiding further restrictions in the coming weeks.

It comes as First Minister Paul Givhan said the Northern Ireland executive was “very united” in urging the public to play their part in slowing the spread of COVID-19.

Speaking to the media after a deal to reinforce Covid measures, Mr Givhan said he had considered several letters from Health Minister Robin Swan.

He said: “We are all very united in asking the public to play our part as politicians, that we do everything we can to try and reduce the transmission rate of the coronavirus.

“So we appeal again to redouble our efforts, trying to reduce some of those contacts, whenever it comes to good ventilation, where you are getting indoors, So try to meet out more often.

“And we are emphasizing that there is a need to work from home where you can and for employers to support it.

“We recognize that in some circumstances this is not possible and practically requires people to be at their workplaces.”

He added: “Hopefully we can get through this period in the next few weeks by making a collective effort and taking individual responsibility seriously.”


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