Co Tyrone’s doctor said it was time to learn how to live with Covid-19.
Dr Brendan O’Hare spoke after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Monday that those who tested positive for the coronavirus would not be legally required to isolate from Thursday, with free universal testing in England ending on April 1.
Mr Johnson is feared to have been given funding for the free lateral flow tests in Northern Ireland after they were scrapped in England.
Stormont insiders fear that they will have to find the money.
A source from the Department of Health said, “All public testing here is done from London.”
Critics also argue that taxing them at the subsistence level is “madness”.
Health Minister Robin Swan said his department was “seriously considering” a life plan with Covid that was published in England. Under the strategy, those who test positive for Covid-19 would still be advised to stay at home for at least five days, but would not be required by law to have plans subject to parliamentary approval.
Mr. Swan said no decision has been made about any changes to be made here for testing and tracing.
“My department continues to review all aspects of Northern Ireland’s Covid-19 testing and qualification program to ensure it is proportionate and effective,” Swan said.
Dr. O’Hare is the director of Western Rural Healthcare, which has more than 16,000 patients at his clinics in Edirne, Co Ferman and Tyrone.
He told Belfast Live: “At some point we have to get past Covid, we really do. Our experience at the moment is that as long as we know the high number of Covid cases in our patients, no one is sick.
“We don’t see many in the hospital and no one in the intensive care unit.
“I hope we enter the final phase of our epidemic, and while it is a political judgment on when we will reduce testing, in person and what I see, I wouldn’t be disappointed if they did.
“If our health minister decides to make that decision too soon, he won’t hear my different voice.”
“We simply don’t see the level of severe disease among our patients that is leading to the restrictions,” Dr. O’Hare added.
“We know people with Covid, but we don’t need to see them because they are not getting worse. We suffer the most from staff isolation, which affects our ability to provide services.
“People with disabilities are not sick, but they cannot go to work and there are limitations that can be achieved by working from home.”
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“It’s time to learn how to live with Covid, and until I understand that there are people who are concerned about it, we need to move forward,” he said.
The Department of Health announced on Monday that all people over the age of 75 in Northern Ireland will receive an additional booster vaccine for Covid-19.
About 155,000 people will be able to operate the megaphone, which is expected to be launched in April.
The extra pocket will also be offered to anyone over the age of 12 who is immunocompromised.
Patricia Donnelly, head of the Northern Ireland vaccination programme, said universal vaccination centers would not be necessary for the next spread of the Covid vaccine.
Ms Donnelly said health officials in Northern Ireland were hopeful the fall outbreak could continue for more than 50 years, but no decision had yet been made.
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