Northern Ireland’s First Minister has confirmed that no further restrictions have been imposed amid the latest COVID-19 surge.
Mr Paul Givhan also said there were no plans to close the schools.
The executive met on Thursday as Northern Ireland prepares for the expected peak of the Omicron boom in the coming weeks.
The death of another four patients, who had earlier tested positive for Covid-19, and another 6,877 positive cases of the virus were notified on Thursday.
Mr Givhan told reporters in Stormont that ministers received an update from health officials during a virtual meeting on Thursday.
“Yes, there is pressure within our healthcare, we are seeing a slight increase in general admissions for people with COVID, but we are seeing a stable situation within our critical care. , , We are not seeing an increase in this wave as we did in previous waves, and this is as a result of the vaccination programme,” he said.
“Because people have moved out, they’ve got their pockets, they’re following public health advice, the executive hasn’t had to take the kind of measures that were needed a year ago and we’re in a much better place now.”
Responding to concerns about the opening of schools amid the high number of Covid cases, Mr Givhan said there are no plans to close schools.
“I know that in my engagement with school leaders and parents they very much want children to be in school and so the education minister is working on preparing for the new term,” he said.
“We have delivered CO2 monitors to our school estate, we have had further advice from the Permanent Secretary to our school system leaders, and I want to pay tribute to our principals and teachers who are there and delivering a education because they want to do it in the classroom.
“I recognize that they will face challenges on a school-by-school basis whether it is through staff absenteeism or students who become unwell, and manage it within that school’s population. May need it.
“In terms of a universal approach, schools will not be closed. There will be no proposal for this, but we believe that we need to manage the pressures that come with our schools individually.”
The first minister further described a “challenging period”.
“We are seeing increasing pressure on our workforce, so we are increasing our citizen contingency measures, we are getting more engagement in relevant agencies, be it police, local government, central government, for managing staff absenteeism. Be responsible and where there is further pressure in that area that will require significant support, then that work is being escalated to the executive, and we will continue this under review and we will meet again next week,” he said.
A record number of virus cases have been reported in Northern Ireland due to the Omicron variant.
The case numbers have led to staff shortages, with the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service saying a quarter of its staff are unavailable to work.
Testing capability has also come under pressure.
Earlier this week, it was announced that as a temporary measure, positive lateral flow tests would not need to be confirmed with a PCR test.
Chief Scientific Adviser Prof Ian Young said as many as one in 10 people in some areas of the region may have contracted the virus during the festive period.
Meanwhile, the Department of Health has announced that pre-departure COVID testing for travelers arriving in Northern Ireland will be abolished.
From 4 a.m. on Friday, fully vaccinated passengers and passengers under the age of 18 will no longer be required to undergo pre-departure tests or self-isolate on arrival.
Fully vaccinated passengers will still have to complete a passenger locator form and take a test on or before two days after their arrival.
From Sunday it can be either lateral flow or PCR test.
Anyone with a positive lateral flow test will need to book a free confirmatory PCR test and isolate. The isolation period may end if the PCR is negative.
The announcement follows a similar move in England. – PA