PSNI investigating ‘potential domestic murders’ during coronavirus crisis

Public Health Agency reports six Covid-19 fatalities and 774 confirmed cases

Police in Northern Ireland are witnessing an increase in domestic violence and in domestic murders during the coronavirus pandemic, the Assembly's justice committee has heard.

PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Alan Todd said police were investigating "potential domestic murders" that occured during the coronavirus crisis. He previously predicted a rise in domestic violence and told MLAs that this had "regrettably" come to pass.

“Some of those are likely to come before the courts today or tomorrow,” he said.

Meanwhile, six more people have died from Covid-19 in Northern Ireland, according to the latest data from the North's Public Health Agency (PHA), bringing the number of fatalities in the North to 36.


The PHA also reported that 85 additional confirmed cases, with the total number now at 774 with 6,899 people having been tested.

The North's chief nursing officer Charlotte McArdle said the tower block of Belfast City Hospital is to become Northern Ireland first "Nightingale" hospital. These temporary facilities also being established in Britain to try to cope with the expected surge in coronavirus patients.

It will be a 230-bed critical care unit and similar facilities are to be developed at Altnagelvin in Derry and at the Ulster Hospital in east Belfast. The Eikon Exhibition Centre near Lisburn would be converted into a critical care hospital if needed, Ms McArdle said.

At a meeting of the Assembly health committee, Sinn Féin MLA Pat Sheehan asked health Minister Robin Swann how, if the British government said there were 400 million items of personal protection equipment (PPE) distributed in the past fortnight, none of it had come to Northern Ireland.

Mr Swann said that currently there was no shortage of PPE in the North and the problem was with the supply chain and getting the kit to where it was needed. He said the North had not been denied supplies.

Dr Cathy Jack, chief executive of the Belfast Health Trust, told the committee while there were sufficient stocks it was proving difficult to obtain specialist equipment such as high quality masks. She said the trust was doing everything it could to "have the right equipment at the right time".

Committee chairman Colm Gildernew asked Mr Swann had he sought Covid-19 test kits from Randox Laboratories, which is manufacturing them in Northern Ireland.

Mr Swann said a small amount of kits were obtained at the very start of the crisis but were now tied into Randox’s UK-wide contract to supply kit, some of which would be delivered to the North.

Mr Gildernew asked “why should a local company that is manufacturing kit that we need be allowed to send those out” particularly when the company had received investment from local agencies

"The commerciality of the contract they have negotiated with the United Kingdom is without my scope," responded Mr Swann.

During a Stormont press conference, Finance Minister Conor Murphy said it did "not seem logical" that product from Randox should be sent to England, and then to have some of it brought back to Northern Ireland.

“We need to ensure that we can secure sufficient test (kits) for our purposes,” he said.

Mr Gildernew also referred to the modelling which found in a “reasonable worst case scenario” 400 hospitalised patients would require oxygen while 180 would require ventilation”. The modelling in this scenario also forecast 3,000 deaths in the North in the coming 20 weeks.

Mr Swann said the North had 165 ventilators and an additional “190 are coming as part of the UK allocation”. There were 650-700 breathing support apparatuses on order as well.

Gerry Moriarty

Gerry Moriarty

Gerry Moriarty is the former Northern editor of The Irish Times