Fall in Northern Ireland virus deaths as first recycling centres reopen
A FALL in the number of recorded coronavirus deaths may signal things "heading in the right direction", but reporting delays mean figures are "highly volatile", experts have warned.
The Public Health Agency revealed that another person in hospital died with Covid-19 in Northern Ireland on Sunday, bringing the total confirmed number to 194.
However, the full death toll is likely to be higher, with a revision of previous official statistics published on Friday showing the figures are around a third more than previously reported due to differences in how the statistics are gathered.
The number of Covid-19 deaths in the Republic rose by 39 to 610, with the total in Ireland now standing at 804.
A total of 2,645 people have now tested positive for the virus in the north - a single-day rise of 159, with officials confirming 53 care and nursing homes in the region are now battling the virus.
In the south, a further 445 new cases were diagnosed and an addition 48 cases from a backlog of tests at a German laboratory, bringing the total additional cases yesterday to 493, with 15,251 since the outbreak began.
Westminster's Department of Health latest daily release revealed a total of 16,060 patients have died in hospital in the UK after testing positive for coronavirus, up by 596 from the day before.
Dr Jennifer Harries, deputy Chief Medical Officer for England, said while the `low' number of deaths recorded was "positive", it was unwise to read too much into the figures, which are often retrospectively revised.
"It is fair to say that we do know from the hospital data that we are starting to plateau," she said, but warned that relaxing social distancing would "create a second peak and we definitely won't be past it.
"So, this is no reason to consider that we have managed this... I do think things look to be heading in the right direction".
Professor James Naismith, director of the Rosalind Franklin Institute, warned "the UK figures are highly volatile, particularly with delays in reporting over the weekend so today's number must be regarded with caution".
"We are still to fully count deaths in care homes or the community which are sadly certain to be significant."
Meanwhile, British Education Secretary Gavin Williamson told the daily Downing Street briefing `five tests' need to be met before schools can re-open.
"First we must protect the NHS's ability to cope, and be sure that it can continue to provide critical care and specialist treatment right across the whole of the United Kingdom.
"Second, we need to see daily death rates from coronavirus coming down. Third, we need to have reliable data that shows the rate of infection is decreasing to manageable levels.
"Four, we need to be confident that testing capacity and PPE is being managed, with supply able to meet, not just today's demand, but future demand.
"And fifth, and perhaps most crucially, we need to be confident that any changes we do make will not risk a second peak of infections."
Monday will see the first reopening of recycling centres, after Mid and East Antrim council announced facilities in Larne and Carrickfergus will reopen at 9am as it has decided they "provide a much-needed and essential service".
Residents need a driving licence or photographic proof of address and its use is solely for disposal of "household waste ie black bags accumulated in recent weeks".
It follows concerns over increase in illegal dumping across Northern Ireland.
The authority has already opened a number of town parks in Larne, Carrickfergus and Ballymena, although playgrounds remain shut and exercise equipment out of bounds.
As with parks in Belfast city council area, they can only be accessed on foot or by bicycle with adjoining carparks still closed.
Environment minister Edwin Poots said councillors' decision whether to leave parks open or closed is a "difficult call".
Lisburn and Castlereagh City and Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough councils have both closed parks
Fermanagh and Omagh District Council public parks and open spaces remain open, as has Derry City and Strabane District Council and Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough council, while Mid Ulster District has closed its play areas, pitches and bowling greens, with Dungannon Park and Ballyronan Marina to closed to vehicle access.
Ards and North Down Borough Council has closed larger parks/open spaces.
Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council has closed Megaw Park in Ballymoney, Dungiven Castle Park and Croaghan Way, but large recreational spaces remain open
Downhill, Benone and Castlerock beaches are closed to cars, with pedestrian access still open.