One hundred and ten British Army medics have been deployed to Northern Ireland hospitals to assist with the Covid crisis, operating as regular NHS staff. In the aftermath of this announcement, many Unison members and branches reacted angrily to a statement issued by the leadership of their union, which they perceived to be in opposition to the use of army medical staff in the battle against the pandemic. The Unison leadership statement was written without forethought or sensitivity on an issue that has the potential, if mishandled, to create sectarian tensions and divisions amongst their membership.
The beginning of 2021 has seen a significant increase in the number of Covid-19 cases across Ireland, North and South. Both states have infection rates among the worst in the world, as the Stormont Executive and Irish government continue to fail working people with their mishandling of the pandemic.
Forty-five million people have been infected by Covid-19 globally, with over one million tragically losing their lives. The UK has now surpassed 1.37 million cases, with around 52,000 deaths. In Northern Ireland, we have reached 46,359 cases and 846 deaths. While there are promising signs that effective vaccines may be available in the near future, there is evidence that new strains of the virus are rapidly emerging. There are also serious questions about how rapidly, efficiently and equally vaccination programmes will be rolled out.
The Socialist Party believes that there is a need to campaign to ensure decriminalisation of abortion translates into actual access for all who need it, free on the NHS in Northern Ireland.