Covid-19: 431 new cases and 12 further deaths reported
Ministers in Northern Ireland expected to agree timetable for easing restrictions
People wearing face masks on Dublin’s Grafton Street during the Covid-19 pandemic. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins
A further 12 deaths and 431 new cases of Covid-19 have been reported by the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) on Wednesday.
Of the deaths reported, four occurred in April, two occurred in March and six in January. A total of 4,812 people have now died as a result of Covid-19 in the State since the pandemic began.
There has now been a total of 242,105 confirmed cases of the virus.
Dublin accounts for 160 of Wednesday’s cases with 50 in Kildare, 34 in Donegal, 21 in Meath, 20 in Limerick and the remaining 146 cases are spread across 20 other counties.
As of 8am on Wednesday, 192 patients were hospitalised with Covid-19 with 49 of those in ICU. As of April 12th, 1,076,216 doses of Covid-19 vaccines have been administered. Of that total, 758,763 people have received their first dose and 317,453 have received their second dose.
The 14-day national incidence rate now stands at 132 per 100,000.
The latest figures come as the Government has confirmed that the vaccination of vulnerable groups aged under 60 is to resume using an alternative to the AstraZeneca shot.
Earlier, it was reported that Ministers in Northern Ireland are expected to agree a timetable for the easing of Covid-19 restrictions when they meet on Thursday.
The North’s Minister for Health, Robin Swann, told reporters on Wednesday that the “scales are tipping in favour of relaxations of some of our restrictions and being able to accelerate that process”.
The time was now right, he said, “for the Executive to proceed with further easing of restrictions, including some indicative dates to allow people and businesses look ahead with greater optimism”.
While he would not pre-empt ministers’ decisions, Mr Swann said he hoped there would be “clear signs of positivity” after the meeting. These could include, he said, allowing people more opportunities to meet with family and friends outdoors, as well as “getting the hairdressers and barbers back to work . . . more businesses opening and considering even people getting back to their caravans earlier than we would have thought feasible only a short time ago.”
The Deputy First Minister, Michelle O’Neill, told a Stormont scrutiny committee on Wednesday that she and the First Minister, Arlene Foster, had been “speaking with officials for some time saying that we wanted to see dates put to this” and she was hopeful that on Thursday “the Executive will be able to sign off on dates on what it look likes for the next number of months”.
Industry body Hospitality Ulster called on the Executive to reopen the sector immediately and said Northern Ireland was the last part of the UK to do so.
A strict lockdown has been in force in the North since St Stephen’s Day. Some limited easing of the rules came into force on Monday, when the remainder of school pupils also returned to class.
The North’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr Michael McBride, said on Wednesday there was now “some more headroom and an opportunity for some restrictions to be eased on a phased basis”.
He said that thanks to people’s efforts and the impact of the vaccination programme, the number of Covid-positive admissions to hospitals were continuing to fall.
However he warned that as restrictions eased there was a “greater onus will fall on each and every one of us as individuals to keep following the public health advice [AND]to do all in our power to stop the virus spreading” and urged everyone who was eligible to book a vaccination appointment immediately.
More than one million doses of vaccine have so far been administered in Northern Ireland, with the booking system now open to everyone over 40. Approximately 87 per cent of the over 50s in the North have been vaccinated, Dr McBride said.
The vaccination programme in the North expects to receive its first supply of the Moderna vaccine next month.
On Wednesday the North’s Department of Health reported 97 new cases of Covid-19 and one further death related to the virus.
Earlier, Mr Swann visited a Covid-19 vaccination centre in Craigavon and met people involved in helping to continue the delivery of the North’s vaccination programme at the South Lake Leisure Centre in the town.
“As we slowly and cautiously start to lift the restrictions that have become part of our lives there is no doubt there is much to be optimistic about. The success of our vaccination programme is down to the professionalism and dedication of all those across our HSC system, many of whom will have seen first hand the devastation that Covid-19 has brought to families across Northern Ireland,” Mr Swann said.
“The vaccination programme continues at pace and I again would urge anyone who is over 40 and who still hasn’t booked a slot to please do so, this vaccine protects us and those close to you. I am looking forward to getting my second dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine knowing the full protection that this will bring.”
Mr Swann added: “It has been a privilege to visit the Trust vaccination centres and to see the work being done by the vaccination teams. It is testament to them that we have now administered over 1 million vaccines and over 838,000 people in Northern Ireland have now received a Covid-19 vaccine.”