Coronavirus: NI residents urged to follow ‘simple’ advice as death toll rises to seven

Chief medical officer warns rate of pandemic related fatalities will rise in the weeks ahead

Mark McClurg, a pastor from Newtonards, Co Down, has posted a video online detailing his recovery from coronavirus. Video: Reuters

 

Northern Ireland’s most senior medic on Wednesday stressed the importance of following simple advice on combatting the coronavirus as two further deaths related to the epidemic were confirmed.

Seven people who tested positive for Covid-19 have now died in the North, the Public Health Agency said. Among them was Magdalene Mitchell, an 80-year-old resident of a Belfast care home, her family said.

The agency said 37 further cases had been confirmed, bringing the total number to 209 as of Wednesday. More than 3,000 tests have been carried out since the outbreak began.

Chief medical officer Dr Michael McBride warned that there would be further deaths in the coming weeks and that the rate of fatalities linked to the pandemic would rise. He said people needed to “continue in our efforts” when it came to following social distancing and hand hygiene recommendations.

“Those might seem like really simple things to do but they also have a real impact in terms of saving lives and protecting the pressures on our health service,” he said.

“Don’t look back in two weeks time and think we should have done more, or I could have done more.”

He also said the testing capacity for coronavirus, also known as Covid-19, would be expanded to 1,000 tests per day by next week.

Protecting workers

Meanwhile, First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill have warned that enforcement action will be taken against employers who fail to protect their workers during the pandemic.

Ms Foster said she had heard of some businesses operating without the necessary social distancing measures, which was “not acceptable”.

Ms O’Neill said businesses should not be operating “if you cannot make provision for safe working practices” and that the authorities would “move in” and “close you down” if guidelines were not adhered to.

The warning came amid reports of around 1,000 workers at poultry processing firm Moy Park temporarily walking out of its premises in Portadown over concerns that social distancing and other infection control measures were not being implemented. Moy Park disputed the number, saying the total was more like 100, and said it had “new, robust measures” to keep workers safe.

Belfast City Council has temporarily halted the collection of household recycling bins and compost in order to allow it to employ social distancing in its bin lorries.

Altnagelvin Hospital in Derry on Wednesday opened the first in a network of 11 primary care centres to tackle coronavirus. Patients attending must be referred by a doctor.

Separating

Minister for Health Robin Swann said the centres would help maintain GP services by separating patients with coronavirus symptoms from those with unrelated conditions.

Dr Tom Black, chair of the British Medical Association (BMA) in Northern Ireland, said: “This method of GPs working in the middle ground is vital to protect hospital services for patients with the greatest need... I have no doubt that this work will save lives.”

Meanwhile, a Co Down pastor who spent a week in intensive care struggling to breathe because of coronavirus has appealed to people from his hospital bed to heed official advice about the virus.

said he was grateful to be alive.

Coronavirus wants to kill you,” said Mark McClurg of Elim Pentecostal Church in Newtownards. “It wants to take all the life out of your lungs so that you cannot even breathe.

“Don’t think this won’t touch you. Don’t think for a moment that this is just a cough and a cold you will get.”