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Northern Ireland health chief kept best-case Covid-19 scenario under wraps & went public with one 12 times worse instead – report

Northern Ireland health chief kept best-case Covid-19 scenario under wraps & went public with one 12 times worse instead – report
When Northern Ireland's government was warning that the country could lose to Covid-19 almost as many lives as to its violent 'Troubles,' they failed to mention the toll could also be 12 times lower, a new BBC report has revealed.

NI Health Minister Robin Swann had warned in early April that the region may face 3,000 deaths from the first wave of Covid-19. The figure was the “reasonable” worst-case scenario based on computer modeling. 

First Minister Arlene Foster called this a “sobering statistic” and one that was “about 500 people short of the tally of lives lost during the Troubles,” referring to the three decades of violent confrontation between Irish separatists and British loyalists in Northern Ireland.

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But the same modeling said the best-case scenario put the potential death toll at just 250, BBC Spotlight has revealed, citing a leaked document. The optimistic figure was never provided to the public.

Swann decided to keep the best-case variant under wraps because he feared that, otherwise, the public would have “a false sense of security,” according to the BBC report. The scenario was called “unrealistic” in the document.

The actual number of deaths from the infection as tallied by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (Nisra) stands at 757, as counted provisionally by May 29.

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In mid-March, Swann said the “nightmare scenario” with no social distancing could result in 14,000 to 15,000 deaths in Northern Ireland. The 14,000 figure was the “unrealistic” worst-case scenario that came up from the same computer modeling, which the minister used for his April announcement, according to Spotlight. However, he kept that variant from the public too.

When the alarming predictions for Northern Ireland were made public, the team of experts behind it said the figures should not be used as a forecast and have been prepared for planning purposes only.

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