Healthcare news

19 deaths and 640 new cases of coronavirus

Hospitals across Northern Ireland will come under “intense pressure” across the next seven days, the region’s health minister has said.

Robin Swann was speaking as a GP warned that medical staff are facing pressures “unlike any other they have faced before” amid the pandemic.

There were 823 individuals in hospitals in the region with Covid-19 on Monday, 65 of whom were being treated in intensive care.

“Unfortunately when we saw the number of positive cases two-three weeks ago, we knew this was what was in front of us,” Mr Swann told the BBC.

“We know that the next seven days is when we will see that real intense pressure coming on our inpatients and our intensive care units.

“Our worst-case scenario has us modelling up to 1,200 inpatients, and that’s a serious pressure, but then also in the week to ten days that follow the additional pressures then that come on our ICU beds.”

Mr Swann said there are surge plans for ICU to accommodate up to nearly 200 ICU beds.

“That comes at a stretch, that comes with putting our staff under severe pressure in ICU units,” he said, adding that would see specialist nurse/patient ratios go from 1:1 to 1:2-1:3.

“That’s not something we want to do but it’s something that we have modelled and built into that surge capacity.

“Today, we have 144 ICU beds across our system stood up and staffed, and that looks after not just Covid patients but also other patients who need ICU support.”

Dr Tom Black, head of the British Medical Association (BMA) in the region, said staff are doing their best, but many doctors feel they are unable to give care to the “standard they would want”.

On Monday, the Department of Health said a further 19 people who previously tested positive for coronavirus had died in Northern Ireland.

Another 640 individuals have tested positive for the virus.

Some 146,733 coronavirus vaccinations had been administered in Northern Ireland by Monday.

This includes 125,717 first doses of the jab and 20,016 second doses.

Monday also saw the holding of a Coroner’s Court in Northern Ireland’s Nightingale venue for facilitating courts and tribunals.

The inquest was the first hearing of any kind to take place at Belfast’s International Convention Centre (ICC) at the Waterfront Hall since it became a Nightingale venue earlier this month.

Justice Minister Naomi Long said the move is a “significant milestone” in efforts to ensure that courts and tribunals can continue to operate safely and effectively during the pandemic.

Meanwhile, Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said there has been “no resolution” with the Irish government over data sharing around travellers.

Last week, Ms O’Neill and First Minister Arlene Foster criticised Irish leaders for failing to share information on travellers arriving on the island during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Executive is seeking access data on passenger locator forms filled out by people arriving in the Irish Republic who may travel on to Northern Ireland.

Mrs Foster and Ms O’Neill indicated on Thursday that they planned to raise the matter directly with Taoiseach Micheal Martin.

The matter is set to be discussed on Wednesday at the meeting which will involve Mrs Foster, Ms O’Neill, Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney and the Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis.

“We have raised this issue on every occasion we have had opportunity to raise the issue, and I think it is really regrettable there hasn’t been a resolution as of yet,” Ms O’Neill told MLAs.

“I hope that perhaps Wednesday’s meeting will allow some opportunity for there to be a way forward.

“We believe the (legal) issues have been resolved, so I don’t see any barrier now in terms of information being shared.

“I think a conversation at the highest level of government is the way to resolve these things. There is a political solution to the issue of travel and I hope that can be found.”

The seven-day infection rate in Northern Ireland stands at 353.2 with Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon council area recording the highest rate (607.5) and Ards and North Down the lowest at 197. The seven-day rate had been 513.7 between January 4-10.

Number of patients in hospital with a diagnosis of Covid-19 across all trusts since the pandemic began:

There are 823 people with coronavirus in hospital, 65 of whom are receiving specialist treatment in an Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and 51 of them are on ventilators.

There are outbreaks of Covid-19 in 139 care homes across the north.

In the past seven days 6,647 people have been diagnosed with coronavirus, down from 9,666 in the previous seven-day period. The north is currently in week four of a six-week lockdown.

In Northern Ireland, a total of 125,717 people have received a first dose of the coronavirus vaccine to date and 21,016 people have received their second jab, the department has confirmed. 

Seven-day infection rate per council area - average is 353.2

Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon  -  607.5

Mid Ulster  -  528.7

Newry, Mourne and Down -  421.8

Fermanagh and Omagh -  325.3

Antrim and Newtownabbey  -  321

Mid and East Antrim  -  305.2

Belfast  -  276.4

Lisburn and Castlereagh - 255.6

Causeway Coast and Glens  -  241.9

Derry City and Strabane   -  209.1

Ards and North Down  -  197

Meanwhile, eight more people have died of Covid-19 in the Republic of Ireland. A further 2,121 new cases of the disease have been confirmed.

Number of people with Covid-19 in ICU in Northern Ireland since the pandemic began:

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