Northern Ireland reports 220 new cases of Covid-19
Students at Queen’s University Belfast told to self-isolate after ‘small number’ of cases
Electron microscope image of Covid-19. File photograph: NIAID-RML via AP
The North’s department of health reported an additional 220 positive coronavirus cases in Northern Ireland in its daily bulletin issued on Monday afternoon.
This brings the total number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in the North to 10,949. There were no further deaths from the virus in the North, leaving the death total at 578.
In the past seven days there were 1,513 new confirmed cases of coronavirus in the North, with 355 of those cases occurring in the Derry and Strabane council area close to the Border with Donegal, where the incidence also has been high over the past week.
The department also reported that there are six coronavirus patients currently in intensive care units in Northern Ireland hospitals.
Meanwhile, the North’s health minister Robin Swann announced that up to 350 volunteers from the North are to take part in a UK-wide trial of a potential coronavirus vaccine. They will be recruited from the UK Vaccine Registry, which was launched in July.
The trial is being run by US vaccine development company Novavax. The study aims to recruit adults from all parts of society, especially those who are more likely to benefit from a vaccine, including people over 65 years of age, from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds, and who have face-to-face contact with the public at work, such as healthcare workers, delivery personnel, transport workers, and those in retail.
“I am delighted that the public in Northern Ireland will have the opportunity to take part in this important trial, which has the potential to discover a safe and effective vaccine for Covid-19,” said Mr Swann.
The minister said that currently there are more than 30 Covid-19 vaccine trials taking place around the world. “It is vital that Northern Ireland joins this important worldwide effort,” he said.
“The importance of finding a vaccine to help in the battle against this virus cannot be overstated. Despite the magnificent efforts of our health service and the amazing response of society as a whole we remain on a knife edge as we seek to protect ourselves and our loved ones,” added Mr Swann.
Dr Janice Bailie of the North’s public health agency said coronavirus vaccine trials were essential to identify which vaccines were both safe and effective, so that wide-scale vaccination can start as soon as possible.
“There are different types of vaccines, and we don’t know which one will work best to protect people from catching Covid-19. It might be that different vaccines are needed for different groups of people, and it’s only through vaccine trials we will find this out,” she said.
Cases among students
Some Queen’s University students staying in halls of residence in Belfast have been told to self-isolate after a “small number” tested positive for coronavirus, the college has confirmed.
Queen’s did not say how many students were affected but the BBC reported that about 30 students tested positive for coronavirus and that about 100 were instructed to isolate at the Elms accommodation centre off the Malone Road in south Belfast.
Queen’s said “robust protocols” were in place to minimise further spread of the disease.
First Minister Arlene Foster told the Assembly on Monday that her Executive office is to meet representatives from Queen’s and from Ulster University on Tuesday to discuss how to deal with the problem.
“There are many scare stories about our universities and our young people but I believe in our young people. I believe on the whole they want to do what is right and I’d appeal to them to abide by the public health guidance and the restrictions that are there,” said Ms Foster.
Meanwhile St Comgall’s primary school in Bangor, Co Down has decided to close for 14 days after cases of the virus were detected. It is the first primary school in Northern Ireland to close completely due to coronavirus.
Previously, rather than close schools, where Covid-19 was detected specific groups were instructed to isolate as a precaution.