More than 100,000 Covid-19 vaccine doses issued in North

Minister confirms rapid test to be rolled out to hospitals as 19 further deaths reported

Minister of Health Robin Swann and chief scientific officer Prof Ian Young address the media at a press conference in Parliament Buildings, Stormont, Belfast. Photograph: Kelvin Boyes/Press Eye/PA Wire

Minister of Health Robin Swann and chief scientific officer Prof Ian Young address the media at a press conference in Parliament Buildings, Stormont, Belfast. Photograph: Kelvin Boyes/Press Eye/PA Wire

 

More than 100,000 Covid-19 vaccine jabs have been issued in Northern Ireland so far, the North’s Minister of Health has said.

Robin Swann said 109,259 doses of the Covid-19 vaccines had been administered as of Tuesday evening.

He said a new rapid Covid-19 test is being rolled out to hospitals in the coming weeks that would deliver “results inside 12 minutes”. This would allow doctors and nurses to “very quickly identify patients who do not have Covid-19” and would assist decision-making on what form of care to provide, he added.

The Department of Health hopes to have the vaccination programme completed by the early summer with the only possible “limiting factor”, according to Mr Swann, being availability of the vaccines.

The Minister, the North’s chief medical officer Dr Michael McBride and the chief scientific officer Prof Ian Young again warned against complacency, urging people to stay at home, notwithstanding the progress on the vaccine programme.

The department reported 19 more coronavirus-related deaths in its daily afternoon bulletin on Wednesday, taking the total number of fatalities past the 1,500 mark to 1,517. The department also recorded 1,145 new cases of coronavirus.

There were 110 deaths in the past week compared with 78 in the previous seven days.

The pressure on hospitals continues to increase with bed occupancy at 99 per cent and the number of patients receiving coronavirus treatment now at 869, an increase of 84 on the previous day’s figures.

There are 56 Covid-19 patients in intensive care with 40 on ventilators.

Mr Swann replied “yes” when asked if he prayed at night that the health service would come through the current pressures.

“The scale and severity of the impact that Covid-19 is actually having on our system is like nothing we’ve seen in living memory,” he said.

Dr McBride has said restrictions on society would be required for a “considerable number of months”. Northern Ireland is in a six-week lockdown that is due to end on February 6th.

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