Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council area is the “epicentre” of Northern Ireland’s battle with Covid-19, says the Chief Executive of the Southern Health and Social Care Trust.
Addressing January’s full council meeting, the Trust’s Chief Executive, Shane Devlin, presented members with the bleak facts and called on the local authority to work with the Trust to make sure residents redouble their efforts to stay home, protect the NHS and save lives.
“ABC is the epicentre of Covid-19 in Northern Ireland at the moment,” said Mr Devlin.
“It is very clear that we are, our incidence rate is around 500 per 100,000. At the beginning of the pandemic the World Health Organisation said anything greater than 50 per 100,000 is out of control.
“The situation in Northern Ireland is completely out of control but we in ABC are far worse than any other council area.”
He attempted to hammer home the message by comparing the current death rate within the borough as a result of Covid-19 to that of a fatal car crash.
“If in 2021 so far, this borough had a car crash every morning that claimed the lives of the four people in the vehicle and that was happening seven days a week, what would your reaction be,” asked Mr Devin.
“That is exactly what is happening in Craigavon Area Hospital at the moment and some days, it is more like a people carrier or mini-bus has crashed killing all inside.
“The only difference is, it is not a car crash that is killing these people it’s a virus, a virus that we can all play part in reducing the spread of.”
Mr Devlin told members that during the first surge, the Southern Trust had a peak of 63 positive Covid-19 patients, it had a peak of 129 in the second surge and in this, the third surge, it has so far had a peak of 297 Covid-19 positive patients.
“What this means is that the Southern Trust is dealing with 40 per cent of all Covid-19 cases in Northern Ireland,” said Mr Devlin.
“As a consequence, the Belfast Trust and the South Eastern Trust, which are not dealing with the same volume of Covid positive patients as we are, are having to take some of our patients.
“Put bluntly, this has resulted in 79 ambulances bypassing Craigavon in the last week.
“We know people transfer the virus and it is highly contagious, we are in a bad place at the moment. The levels of the virus is high in the community and high in our hospitals.”
Mr Devlin then urged councillors to engage with the Trust to help slow the spread of Covid-19 locally.
“We are not the same as the rest of Northern Ireland,” warned Mr Devlin. “I know we are not going to get rid of Covid-19 at a snap but we are so out of kilter with the rest of Northern Ireland and that is something we have to reflect on.
“What more must we do to reduce the transmission rates of this virus locally?”
“The reality is we are different, we have a high level of community transmission that far exceeds other geographies, including those of our closest neighbours.
“Every day since the beginning of January a car load of people died as a result of this disease and that could continue for some time unless we change course, that is the reality of this situation.”