No ‘specific isolation facilities’ in Northern Ireland at pandemic outbreak

There were no specific isolation facilities available in Northern Ireland at the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, documents have revealed.

The Department of Health sought help to find suitable premises to be used for isolation during a meeting in February 2020.

Those attending the meeting were asked to come forward with suitable premises in their sectors by the end of the month.

A briefing document was published on the UK Covid-19 Inquiry website on Monday evening, titled Minutes of the CCG (clinical commissioning groups) Meeting, regarding identification of isolation facilities, legislation, excess deaths and storage, and readiness, dated February 20 2020.

Covid-19 pandemic inquiry
Robin Swann (Liam McBurney/PA)

The document also says officials from the Department for the Economy were concerned that the proposed Coronavirus Bill did not address the “lack of powers” that further education and higher education had to close colleges.

It said this was in contrast to the Department of Education which could close primary and secondary schools.

The document says the Department of Justice’s Excess Deaths Working Group was continuing to consider options for body storage as a priority.

It adds that as part of plans to prepare for Covid-19, all organisations were to review business continuity plans in light of “reasonable worst case parameters”.

The documents were released after health minister Robin Swann appeared at the Covid-19 Inquiry in Belfast on Monday.

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