Coronavirus National & International

Former First Minister of Northern Ireland says her biggest regret is her handling of Covid

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The Former First Minister of Northern Ireland said her involvement in restricting citizens’ freedoms during Covid is her major political regret.

Dame Arlene Foster said: “I think about the families who could not visit their loved ones as they were dying. Sometimes, it upsets me, actually. The fact that we were stopping people from being with their partners as they were giving birth? In hindsight, we would not have done that. We did it then because it was the right thing to do.”

Foster was appointed First Minister of Northern Ireland in January 2016, is the youngest person to hold the post, and is Northern Ireland’s first female First Minister. She once again became First Minister in 2020 before resigning in June 2021.

Foster also said, “Closing schools in the fashion we closed them, damaging young people, which we’re still seeing the impact of and will see for many years.”

On July 10th, 2023,  Northern Ireland’s Chief Medical Officer told the committee that Brexit preparations took staff away from pandemic planning, and a lack of a health minister between 2017 and 2020 also hampered the department’s work.

A day later, Arlene Foster spoke to the UK Covid-19 inquiry on Tuesday, 11 July 2023.

Foster’s session with the Inquiry lasted approximately two hours.

The Covid-19 Inquiry examines how prepared the UK was for the coronavirus pandemic in early 2020.

Public hearings for the UK Covid-19 Inquiry’s investigations into core UK decision-making and political governance in Northern Ireland will be held in April next year.

Foster expressed the hope that “they [the Inquiry Committee] deal with the big issues and not what was said about somebody on WhatsApp, etc.”

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