Northern Ireland news

Five weeks into lockdown and north begins to follow WHO guidance with Covid-19 contact tracing

 The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) study has also said isolating people with coronavirus and tracing their contacts so they also isolate - an approach abandoned by the British Government early on - is the key to controlling further outbreaks of coronavirus

TRACING people who have been in contact with a confirmed case of coronavirus will begin in Northern Ireland next week.

Five weeks into lockdown, the decision has been taken to follow Word Health Organization guidance to track Covid-19’s spread.

Some tracing was carried out in the initial phase of the crisis but it was largely stopped last month based on “sound public health considerations”.

It will now become “crucially important” to overcome local pockets of infection, Chief Medical Officer Michael McBride has confirmed.

The executive is today expected to decide whether to reopen cemeteries.

Graveyards were closed last month but there have been mounting calls to reopen them.

Bereaved relatives have told of their anguish at being prevented from visiting loved ones’ graves during the pandemic.

The issue has divided the executive parties.

The DUP and UUP support reopening on a controlled basis, whereas Sinn Féin and Alliance oppose it.

The SDLP has asked for advice from health officials.

Sinn Féin finance minister Conor Murphy suggested the restriction should be kept in place. “We need to ensure that our central priority which is about saving lives remains that number one priority but of course where we can respond to people’s needs we will want to look at that in a very sympathetic way,” he said last night.

In other developments:

  • Students in the Republic will sit their Leaving Cert examinations this summer, with tests beginning on July 29, the Irish government announced last night.
  • Europe’s first human trial of a Covid-19 vaccine has begun in England. Two volunteers were injected, the first of more than 800 people recruited for the Oxford study.
  • From 6am today, the Isle of Man becomes the first area of Britain and Ireland to ease restrictions. Journeys on the island will no longer have to be essential.
  • There were a further 29 deaths in the Republic and 13 in Northern Ireland, bringing the island total to 1,057.
  • Another 616 people died in the UK, bringing the total to 18,738.
  • 103 health-care workers in the UK are believed to have died from the virus, 65 of them from ethnic minorities, research has found.

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Northern Ireland news