Northern Ireland passes ‘sad milestone’ of 1,000 Covid-19 deaths

Vaccine programme ‘good to go’ in mid-December if new products get go-ahead

The number of coronavirus deaths in Northern Ireland has passed the 1,000 mark, according to the latest figures from the North's department of health.

The department in its daily bulletin on Tuesday afternoon recorded 15 more Covid-19 deaths, taking the death toll in the North since the start of the pandemic to 1,011.

Ulster Unionist health minister Robin Swann said passing the 1,000 figure for deaths was “another sad milestone” in the pandemic.

“We always have to remember that we are not talking about statistics but much-loved people who are desperately missed,” said the Minister. “This is another harsh reminder of the threat posed by Covid-19. No one should underestimate the virus, or delude themselves that it could never affect them.


“I am very aware that there is still a small and vociferous minority who seek to play down the coronavirus risks. This includes those who spout conspiracy theories on social media and those who think Northern Ireland could somehow have breezed through all this without adopting restrictions that were widely deployed elsewhere. To anyone trying to minimise the impact, I say please think again.”

Northern Ireland currently is in an extended two-week period of lockdown – due to end on Friday, December 11th – after a previous five weeks of restrictions.

Mr Swann said the public must continue to follow public health advice.

“We need to ensure we get maximum benefit from the current restrictions in terms of pushing down infection rates. The same vigilance will be essential throughout Christmas and well beyond it.”

The Minister added: “January and February are extremely difficult months for our health service even in normal times. We need to keep doing everything we can to stop the virus spreading today and tomorrow, this week and next. Our actions will have a direct bearing on how the disease spreads, how it will impact on our lives, and whether there will be a need for further restrictions in early 2021.”

The department also reported 391 new cases of the virus on Tuesday, bringing the total to 52,856.

Hospital bed occupancy is at 100 per cent. There are now 419 patients being treated for Covid-19 in Northern Ireland hospitals, with 38 in intensive care and 29 on ventilators.

The overall seven-day Covid figure for Northern Ireland is 134 cases per 100,000 of population.

The North’s chief medical officer, Dr Michael McBride, said the death figures were “deeply distressing”.

“I’m very conscious that as we approach the Christmas period there will be many families who have been bereaved as a consequence of Covid, and there will be, sadly, many more that will be subsequently bereaved. What’s really important now is that we continue to follow the advice that we know works.”


Meanwhile, Patricia Donnelly, who is in charge of the Covid-19 vaccination plan when new vaccines come on stream, said the North's health service was "good to go" in terms of rolling out the programme from December 14th, assuming that some of the new vaccines got the go-ahead by then.

She said that programme would start with the vaccination of healthcare workers, adding that the service had 800 experienced vaccinators in place with more than 600 vaccinators who had applied to join the scheme.

She said the programme would be voluntary, and there would be no mandatory vaccinations.

The chief medical adviser, Prof Ian Young, said "we will probably need somewhere between 50 per cent and 70 per cent at least of the population to take up the vaccine for the vaccine to be effective".

Gerry Moriarty

Gerry Moriarty

Gerry Moriarty is the former Northern editor of The Irish Times