80% of doctors in NI believe Covid-19 second wave likely

The British Medical Association in NI says doctors are concerned about a second wave of Covid-19. Credit: PA

More than 80% of doctors in Northern Ireland believe a second wave of Covid-19 is likely within the next six months.

Almost half have said it was their greatest fear for the health service.

According to the British Medical Association in Northern Ireland, GP and hospital clinicians expressed concern about capacity to manage the pandemic alongside restarting routine care for patients.

Chairman Dr Tom Black said: “The past few days have clearly demonstrated that we are only through the first phase of this pandemic and there is going to be a long winter ahead.

“Our members, who have worked throughout the last six months either on the wards, in practices, in the community, or remotely, are rightly worried that we have not been able to get this disease under control.”

Measures limiting social interaction between households amid soaring Covid-19 infection rates in the Belfast council area, Ballymena town, and the postcode areas BT28, BT29 and BT43 come into effect on Monday for at least two weeks.

People in those areas have also been given guidance discouraging non-essential journeys outside the affected zones.

Members of the BMA were asked what they felt presented a risk of causing a second peak - 57% strongly agreed that confusing messages on public health measures including mask wearing and household social interactions presented a risk and 52% strongly agreed that a lack of monitoring of public health measures created a risk.

When asked about what needs to be done to prevent a second wave, most surveyed felt there needed to be a coherent approach to local outbreaks and a “fit for purpose” testing and tracing system.

They also felt there needed to be better public messaging on measures like wearing face coverings, social distancing and contact with non-household members.

Dr Black added: "From this survey, we can see that doctors think we need two things to prevent a second, worse peak of Covid-19 - a fit for purpose track and trace system and a coherent, rapid and consistent approach to getting local outbreaks under control.

“Last week, the Executive made the right moves in that direction with localised lockdowns and, alongside that, we need clear messages for the general public so they understand what they are being asked to do and why.

“For the health service itself, doctors identified two clear priorities to get it back onto a sustainable footing - Covid-secure workplaces and adequate supplies of PPE, and prioritisation of patients to clear the backlog of those who need assessed urgently.”