Northern Ireland could have been better prepared for pandemic, inquiry told

Northern Ireland could have been better prepared to deal with the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic, a barrister for the Department of Health has said.

However, Neasa Murnaghan KC also told the UK Covid-19 Inquiry that “substantial efforts” had gone in to adequately preparing for the pandemic in the face of addressing other significant issues in the health service in the region.

On the final day of hearings in module one of the inquiry, which is focused on resilience and preparedness, Ms Murnaghan addressed chairwoman Baroness Heather Hallett (pictured) to give clarification on a number of issues which have arisen during evidence.

She told her: “The department, of course, recognises that, with the benefit of experience of the Covid-19 pandemic and its particular challenges, Northern Ireland could have been better prepared.

“It is also mindful, however, that, without this experience, it was very challenging to be ready to meet every eventuality.

“In a range of ways, very substantial efforts had been made to ensure that the department was adequately prepared, with many of those involved showing dedication and commitment to achieving the best possible outcomes while simultaneously addressing very significant non-pandemic issues facing health and social care in Northern Ireland.

“However, insofar as more could have been done, that is a matter of profound regret.”

Ms Murnaghan added: “The department reiterates its sincere commitment to learning lessons from the devastating impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, such that it might mitigate the enduring consequences that continue to be experienced by our health service and our community.

“To this end, the department hopes that the inquiry will be able to identify learnings and recommendations to help shape future responses, particularly given the ever-present potential that another pandemic may arise, the exact timing and nature of which will be unknown.

“The department wishes again to convey our deepest sympathies to those bereaved during the course of this pandemic.”

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