Coronavirus: North records 3,576 cases and 26 deaths in past 48 hours

Latest figures show 99% of hospital beds as Oxford vaccine rollout due to begin next week

While New Year’s Ever passed off quietly for most with empty streets across Northern Ireland, police were busy responding to 1,004 calls. Photograph: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

Northern Ireland has recorded a further 3,576 coronavirus cases within the last 48 hours.

Another 26 people have died with Covid-19, the Department of Health said.

Figures also show there are 483 patients in hospital with Covid-19, with 35 of those in ICUs.

Hospital Report

In the last seven days, 10,850 people have tested positive with the virus, up from 4,281 for the previous seven days.

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Northern Ireland’s seven-day incidence rate is now at 576.6 per 100,000.

It has more than doubled in the last two weeks.

The latest figures also show that 99 per cent of hospital beds are occupied, with some 30 empty hospital beds left in Northern Ireland.

Six of Northern Ireland’s hospitals are operating beyond capacity, including Antrim, Causeway, Mater, Royal Hospital, South West Acute Hospital and Ulster Hospital.

It comes as the rollout of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine in Northern Ireland begins at GP practices on Monday.

An initial batch of 50,000 doses has been allocated. Those aged over 80 will be initially prioritised.

Chief medical officer Dr Michael McBride said as many people on the priority list as possible should be offered a first dose.

He added: “The evidence shows that the initial dose of vaccine offers as much as 70 per cent protection against the effects of the virus.

“Providing that level of protection on a large scale will have the greatest impact on reducing mortality and hospitalisations, protecting the health and social care system. It is the right thing to do for the public health.”

Restriction breaches

On Friday, it was reported that more than 100 fines were handed out for breaches of the coronavirus regulations and 34 prohibition notices issued over house parties on New Year’s Eve, police have said.

While the night passed off quietly for most with empty streets across Northern Ireland, police were busy responding to 1,004 calls over reports of anti-social behaviour, assault, concern for safety, criminal damage, missing persons and road traffic collisions.

This included 86 reports of domestic abuse from homes across Northern Ireland, which resulted in 38 arrests.

In terms of the coronavirus regulations, officers issued 126 £200 fines as well as 34 prohibition notices in response to house parties and two penalty notices for businesses which continued to operate.

Plans for school reopening differ across the UK. In Northern Ireland, secondary school years eight to 11 will continue to be taught via remote learning throughout January and primary pupils will return to the classroom on January 11th.

‘Really disappointing’

PSNI assistant chief constable Mark McEwan expressed disappointment at events which came despite strict rules in place to attempt to halt the spread of coronavirus.

Stormont brought the tough new measures in last week in response to spiralling numbers of cases, which have continued to see record rises this week.

“It’s really disappointing that despite the health crisis due to the deadly virus, there were still people last night who deliberately decided to breach the regulations and put themselves and others at risk,” he said.

“I do want to take this opportunity to thank the vast majority of people who are being responsible, and who are doing their bit and continuing to take this virus seriously as we navigate this pandemic.

“It is vitally important that people take the time to understand what is and is not permitted under the new regulations, what is advised by way of guidance, and to take personal responsibility for stopping the spread of this virus.

“Where people do not follow the Health Protection Regulations, our approach will remain the same we will engage with people first explaining the guidance and the law and encourage people to do the right thing.

"However, where we are left with no choice but to enforce, we will take this measure in order to protect the most vulnerable members of our communities and help protect our NHS. "

Domestic abuse

Mr McEwen also expressed concern at the number of reports of domestic abuse.

“Sadly, we know domestic abuse doesn’t only occur at Christmas, that it happens all year round. Historically, however, figures show over the Christmas period incidents of domestic abuse rise,” he said.

“We also know that during this pandemic more people have been, and will continue to, spend more time at home than they usually would. The combined impact of this pandemic and the festive season will have made it really tough for people experiencing abuse and, in some situations, even worse.

“This is a challenging time for everyone, but the help we can offer anyone suffering abuse hasn’t changed, and I want to take this opportunity to reassure anyone who finds themselves in an abusive situation to know they are not alone, that help is available.

“We, as your police service, are here for you. we will listen to you and we will take action.” – PA