Belfast hospitals cancel elective surgeries as COVID-19 rages - source

BELFAST, Oct 13 (Reuters) - All elective surgeries have been cancelled across Belfast this week due to a rise in COVID-19 hospital admissions, a source familiar with the plans said on Tuesday as the devolved government debated whether to impose new restrictions.

The British-run region has become one of Europe’s biggest COVID-19 hotspots in recent weeks and its health minister on Friday described the situation as getting more grave by the hour, with further constraints likely to be imposed soon.

The Belfast Health and Social Care Trust, which runs the capital city’s hospitals, cancelled operations, including cancer procedures, for the rest of the week with no timescale as to how long the measures would be in place for, the source said.

“More people are requiring specialist clinical care because of the numbers of COVID patients in our hospitals. The extremely difficult decision was made to cancel elective surgery this week,” the source told Reuters.

The Belfast Trust had no immediate comment on the situation, a spokesperson said.

Northern Ireland’s health department reported 863 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, bringing its cumulative seven-day rate per 100,000 people to 334.1.

Restrictions on how pubs and restaurants operate in Northern Ireland are currently not as strict as they are across the open border in Ireland or in many parts of the United Kingdom.

Northern Ireland’s power-sharing government met on Tuesday to discuss the rise in cases but its two main parties, the Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Fein, have disagreed in public on how strict any new measures should be.

Editing by Padraic Halpin and Ed Osmond