The Deputy Prime Minister of NI said the Minister of Health was acting too slowly in key areas such as testing and providing protective equipment to healthcare workers struggling with the coronavirus crisis.
Michelle O’Neill of Sinn Féin accused Robin Swann of the UUP of “slavishly following the model of Boris Johnson”.
But UPU chief Steve Aiken said that Ms. O’Neill was trying to exploit the crisis for political gain.
A total of 36 people with Covid-19 died in Northern Ireland.
Nearly 7,000 tests confirmed 774 cases through NI, including 85 new cases confirmed Thursday – an increase of 12% overnight – which prompted faster testing.
In the United Kingdom, 2,921 people (out of nearly 34,000 tested positive) died, while there were 98 deaths and 3,849 confirmed cases in the Republic of Ireland.
There are now more than a million confirmed cases of coronavirus worldwide, and estimates suggest that more than 50,000 people have died.
Johnson follows “slavishly”
While Ms. O’Neill said she was determined to work with Mr. Swann, she said that the test rate in Northern Ireland – some 500 people on a target of 1,100 – was far below the rate required.
“By slavishly following the [UK Prime Minister] Boris Johnson’s model, which has been too slow to act, means that we are not as prepared as possible, “said Ms. O’Neill at The View of BBC NI.
“I have presented these arguments in private and I think it is my moral duty, given the gravity of the situation we face, that I should say these things when I think they are not correct.
O’Neill said her position was not on party politics but on saving lives, and insisted that the executive was “working together” to resolve the issues.
“It’s about knowing the best advice – the World Health Organization has said very clearly,” Test, test test “.
Aiken said the Deputy Prime Minister’s comments were “regrettable but not unexpected”.
“It is unfortunate but not unexpected that the Deputy Prime Minister and Sinn Féin continue to seek political advantage rather than join other political parties in the executive to do what is best for all of us,” did he declare.
Power sharing in Stormont was restored in January, following an agreement between the largest union party, the DUP, and the largest nationalist party Sinn Féin, to end three years without a decentralized government.
No more kit required
O’Neill also said that more needs to be done to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) to frontline health workers.
Pat Cullen, director of the Royal College of Nursing, said on Thursday that nurses were concerned about the lack of equipment and the transfer of test kits from Northern Ireland to Britain.
Dr. John Porteous, who works in a office of nine doctors in Lisnaskea, County Fermanagh, with more than 14,000 patients, said his operation received only 12 packs of PPE a few weeks ago and 12 other packs last week.
Health workers “need to know more,” he added.
A social worker, who spoke anonymously to BBC News NI, said that his colleagues needed a protection kit 100 times more, adding that many were self-insulating and that an entire team had tested positive for Covid-19.
“We are facing intense internal situations, and we just don’t have the PPE to deal with those situations,” he said.
“You ask the staff to take risks or buy their own.
Swann stressed that testing and PPE are key priorities for his department, but added that there is no “silver bullet”.
“The PPE supply situation has been made more difficult by the fact that supply routes from China, a leading global supplier, have been closed until recently,” said Swann on Thursday. .
NI health officials have said they expect to reach the maximum number of cases between April 6 and 20, with 3,000 deaths expected in a 20-week “first wave” of the coronavirus pandemic.
Expert modeling suggests that 180 patients will need ventilation; Northern Ireland currently has 165 respirators, more have been ordered, and 650 units capable of providing breathing assistance are also being purchased.
For patients with the worst effects of infection, a ventilator offers the best chance of survival.
Expert modeling has also indicated that there could be a second wave later in 2020 in the absence of a vaccine or sufficient population immunity.
In other developments:
17,000 jobs will be cut in NI as part of the government’s continued coronavirus program
220 schools say ready to open at Easter for children of key workers and vulnerable children
- Key services struggling to downsize – 10% in Belfast health trust, almost a quarter of prison workers and a third of community pharmacy staff – due to workers’ self-isolation
- Questions asked about Secretary of Health Matt Hancock’s commitment to have 100,000 tests done every day by the end of April
- Belfast Hospital is becoming NI’s first Nightingale hospital, with a 230-bed unit for critically ill patients
- Test centers are being prepared in the Belfast SSE arena in Belfast and in MOT test centers
- A “helping hand for caregivers” brought people to their front doors across NI and the UK on Thursday evening to show their appreciation for healthcare workers