Healthcare news

Lockdown has made major difference in suppressing coronavirus - Arlene Foster

 Arlene Foster speaking today at an Executive briefing alongside Finance Minister Conor Murphy in Dungannon
Maeve Connolly

Executive briefing on Covid-19 response

First Minister Arlene Foster:

- The Executive has agreed a £37.7m package of support for those in full time higher education. Students will receive a one-off £500 Covid disruption payment. Read more

- The R rate - rate of transmission - is between 0.75 and 0.85. The infection rate has dropped across the north and Newry, Mourne and Down has seen a reduction of two thirds while the council areas with the highest rates - Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon plus Mid Ulster - have halved

- Ms Foster said one in seven people have received a first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine and that around 90% of people aged 80 and over have been vaccinated

- The first minister said 90% of residents in care homes have received their second vaccination

- The Department of Health this afternoon confirmed that 289,274 vaccines have been administered, of which 263,735 were first doses and 25,539 were second doses

- A shipment of AstraZeneca arrived yesterday and will have been distributed to GP practices by today

- "There is a fragility to our hard won gains", now is not the time to ease up but to push on and exert maximum control over the virus, she added

Finance Minister Conor Murphy:

- Health service "remains under serious pressure" with 671 Covid patients in hospital and 68 of them in ICU. Read more

'De-escalate language'

Earlier today PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne appealed for people to "step back from the brink" in relation to heightened tension around Brexit and the Northern Ireland Protocol which has seen a council, a Stormont department and the EU withdraw staff from Larne and Belfast ports over fears for their safety.

Asked about the chief constable's call, plus appeals for elected representatives to de-escalate their language, DUP leader Arlene Foster said people should channel their frustrations "through constitutional politics".

"It is one of the reasons why we have set out a five point plan to deal with the frustrations, particularly in the unionist and loyalist communities."

She added: "I do think it's incredibly important that people do stay calm but that they focus their energies on constitutional politics and take things forward in that fashion".

Read more: Edwin Poots - Difficult for politicians to control level of unionist anger over NI Protocol

Sinn Féin's Conor Murphy said: "I think it is very clear that we do need a dialling down of the rhetoric and we've heard some comments which I think are dangerous from people who should know better on radio programmes yesterday."

Asked about comments from David Campbell, the chairman of the Loyalist Communities Council (LCC), who said yesterday it may be necessary "to fight physically to maintain our freedoms within the UK", Ms Foster said she was "quite shocked" by his words and repeated her appeal for people to use "constitutional politics".


 Finance Minister Conor Murphy

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