Coronavirus spread in North continues with 902 new cases reported
Michelle O’Neill tests negative but will continue to self isolate
Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill during a press conference in Parliament Building, Stormont. File photograph: PA
Another 902 people have tested positive for Covid-19 in Northern
Ireland but no new deaths were reported on Saturday.
A total of 134 patients are in hospital with 19 in intensive care and 11 of those ventilated, the North’s department of health said.
Earlier, it emerged that Northern Ireland’s deputy first minister Michelle O’Neill had tested negative for coronavirus.
She will continue to self-isolate and work remotely after a family member was diagnosed, a spokeswoman said.
Northern Ireland’s minister for health warned on Friday that further restrictions to limit the spread of coronavirus could soon be necessary.
Robin Swann said the situation was “grave and getting more so on a daily, if not hourly, basis” and he was advised that “further restrictions for Northern Ireland are likely to be required in the very near future, in the event of positive cases continuing their current upward trajectory”.
These, he said, would be “necessary to reduce hospitalisations and loss of life and to protect our health and social care system from being overwhelmed”.
In the last seven days, 5,272 new cases of the virus have been confirmed in the North. In Derry and Strabane, Co Tyrone, where restrictions similar to the Republic’s Level 3 were introduced on Monday in an attempt to curb the spread of the virus, the rate of infection over the last seven days has risen to 834 per 100,000 of population.
Meanwhile, Northern Ireland is to receive an additional £200 million (€220 million) from the UK treasury to help support businesses through coronavirus. The North will also benefit from the expansion of the UK’s job support scheme, which will pay two-thirds of the wages of employees at firms which are forced to close because of coronavirus restrictions.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney, as well as the North’s Ministers, had previously told the UK government additional financial backing was needed if Northern Ireland – which has limited fiscal powers – was to introduce further coronavirus measures.
This financial injection could pave the way for the restrictions in force in Derry and Strabane to be extended to other areas which are also experiencing significant numbers of cases, such as Belfast, Newry Mourne and Down and Mid-Ulster.
The chief medical officers from North and South spoke on Friday amid increasing concerns about the impact of the Border on infection rates.
Mr Coveney told RTÉ he hoped politicians from the Republic and Northern Ireland would come together to address this in the days ahead. - Additional reporting PA