The progress of the pandemic has brought new concerns which has indicated that this is now the Grenfell Tower for public health.

We knew the fire had started in China but we did not effectively review our pandemic precautions, we didn’t socially isolate immediately, we let Cheltenham Races go ahead (betting whilst Rome burned) when the advice from WHO was to lockdown.

We didn’t efficiently ready the ‘fire brigades’. And as a consequence, we may be the fallers, or our nearest and dearest in the care homes.

A public scandal  if ever I saw one.

Some care homes in Durham with over 100 residents have not lost a single resident, so it can be done, given the right equipment.

Only a public judicial inquiry under a high court judge who knows our health and social care services and the calibre, quality and scientific basis of advice given to the Executive can determine what happened. The Renewal Heat Incentive Inquiry was about money and chickens this is about us, our families, our jobs, our futures, and, for the moment, our lives.


The key is the serology test to establish and certify who are immune and register on smartphones who can go about their business and return to work. Progress has been painfully slow and we are nearing the peak of deaths.

Our erstwhile partners in the European Union are slowly opening up. Ursula von der Leyen, the President, has been reproached for not helping Italy earlier but the Germans have ‘controlled’ the pandemic by effective and efficient testing and have spare RICU capacity for France.

Our Assembly meets in committee format with Covid-19 but the Health Committee continues to do its work under the shrewd and effective Colm Gildernew MLA with parliamentary blood in his veins.


This morning the Health Committee heard from the doctors: a GP, a physician and a surgeon. There were the concerns about testing, PPE, ventilators and the care of the dying (changes in death certification) and in particular appropriateness of resuscitation of highly  infectious patients (CPR). ’Duty of candour’ was not mentioned but it was the big elephant in the old Senate Chamber. Politicians also have this duty to their constituents to tell why decisions are being taken in these difficult times and why and we have our neighbours in the south or Donegal to compare with.

Someone said to me that asking care home nurses to look after our dear ones without PPE and face shields or visors was like when the Polish cavalary were asked to charge the tanks of the German Panzers with sabres and rifles..many died.

We will look back on these times with a folk memory the way previous generations looked at the Irish famine and we will wonder why we did not get the ‘Trevelyan’s corn’ for a pandemic in good time: traditional public health tests, quarantine, PPE, ‘treatments’ and care and dignity for the dying and the bereaved.

Dr Michael Donnelly MB, BCh, BAO is a clinical epidemiologist.