Coronavirus death toll in Northern Ireland rises to 381

Former UUP leader Mike Nesbitt apologises for breaking lockdown restrictions

A PSNI officer on patrol in Belfast city centre during the coronavirus pandemic restriction period. Photograph: Stephen Davison/PSNI/PA Wire

A PSNI officer on patrol in Belfast city centre during the coronavirus pandemic restriction period. Photograph: Stephen Davison/PSNI/PA Wire

 

The North’s department of health on Sunday reported five new deaths from coronavirus, bringing the total number of fatalities in Northern Ireland to 381.

The department also reported that 78 more people have tested positive for coronavirus, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 3,767.

So far, 29,629 people have been tested for the illness, also known as Covid-19, in Northern Ireland.

Meanwhile, former Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) leader Mike Nesbitt has apologised for breaking the North’s lockdown regulations.

He also said he has resigned as deputy chairman of the Northern Assembly Executive Office committee after the Sunday World reported that Mr Nesbitt had travelled to Portballintrae in north Antrim to visit a friend.

In a statement to the newspaper Mr Nesbitt said it had been a “stressful and difficult period” and “unfortunately I have made some very poor decisions”.

He said he has apologised and is remorseful.

The UUP leader Steve Aiken said “breaking the lockdown regulations is totally unacceptable, no matter who you are”.

“The rules are there to help save lives. Mike has made a huge mistake and he has accepted what he did was wrong. I have accepted his resignation as deputy chair of the committee for the Executive Office,” he said.

“The lockdown rules are there to help save lives and the message remains the same: stay home, protect the NHS, save lives,” said Mr Aiken.

The Sinn Féin communities minister Deirdre Hargey said on Sunday that the Northern Executive will meet three times in the coming week to discuss how Northern Ireland might start relaxing the lockdown rules.

She told BBC Radio Ulster’s Sunday with Steven Rainey programme that ministers were due to meet on Monday, Wednesday and likely Thursday this week as part of intensive work evaluating how the rules might be eased.

“We have to have that done within the legislation by May 9th, so we’d always said that we would start to review it this week,” she said.

“So I think that will start to materialise and be made public within this week or the week after.”

She said the lockdown would not be completely lifted and that there will still be a “level of social distancing” while warning that another spike in cases in a second wave of Covid-19 would do damage “that we probably couldn’t come back from”.

Ms Hargey said she would like to see more of an all-island approach to loosening the rules and that a similar approach to the five-stage easing of rules announced by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar would be required in Northern Ireland.