SDLP Finance Spokesperson Matthew O’Toole has called for additional funding to prepare for the impact of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 on the North.
Mr O’Toole said preparations were underway in Britain and the South, but there had been little in the way of contingency planning or clarity of communication from the Executive.
He said the Joint First Ministers must act now, in tandem with Finance Minister Conor Murphy, to seek money from the Treasury to protect the public, the health service and businesses.
South Belfast MLA Matthew O’Toole said:
“We heard from Paul Givan and Michelle O’Neill earlier this week that we need to be ready for the impact of the Omicron variant in the North in the new year. Despite this, our Joint First Ministers and Executive have yet to bring forward any proposals to mitigate its impact on people here. If we are going to properly deal with this emergency then we need to have funding in place and Sinn Féin Finance Minister Conor Murphy needs to ensure it is set aside or forthcoming from the Treasury and Chancellor Rishi Sunak.
“The situation in Britain is causing significant concern. We know Omicron spreads much more quickly and its full impact is not yet known. We must do everything we can to get through this period with minimal disruption and we need to see a contingency plan brought forward with the necessary funding to protect the public, our health service and any businesses affected.
“We need to see our joint First Ministers working with the Finance Minister Conor Murphy to get funding in place for dealing with this threat, we can’t end up in a last minute scramble in a few weeks’ time and expected people to make do.
“This situation requires leadership and we can’t afford another abdication of duty from the DUP and Sinn Féin. While we all hope the impact of Omicron is less than feared, we need to act now and get funding in place that will give us the best chance of getting our people, health service and businesses through the coming weeks."