Northern Ireland news

Zero Covid deaths in north for fourth day in a row

Finance Minister Conor Murphy during the daily media broadcast in the Long Gallery at Parliament Buildings, Stormont on Wednesday

THE Department of Health has reported no further deaths of people with coronavirus for a fourth day in a row.

There were 13 new confirmed cases of the virus, bringing the total since the outbreak began to 4,818.

In the Republic, five more people have died, bringing the overall death toll to 1,695.

The number of people known to have died in the UK now stands at 40,883.

A former government adviser said the death toll would have been halved if the lockdown had been introduced a week earlier.

In the UK, it began on March 23. The Imperial College Covid-19 response team called for a full-scale lockdown in a paper published on March 16, however.

Its report said mitigation policies - combining home isolation of suspected cases, home quarantine of those living in the same household as suspected cases, and social distancing of the elderly and others at most risk of severe disease - "might reduce peak healthcare demand by two-thirds and deaths by half".

"However, the resulting mitigated epidemic would still likely result in hundreds of thousands of deaths and health systems (most notably intensive care units) being overwhelmed many times over," it added.

"Even if all patients were able to be treated, we predict there would still be in the order of 250,000 deaths in GB, and 1.1-1.2 million in the US. For countries able to achieve it, this leaves suppression as the preferred policy option."

Professor Neil Ferguson, one of the lead authors on the study, said the number of deaths could have been much less. Prof Ferguson resigned as an adviser last month after allegedly breaching lockdown rules.

He told a committee of MPs on Wednesday that many lives in care homes could have been saved.

"Had we introduced lockdown measures a week earlier, we would have reduced the final death toll by at least a half," he said.

"So whilst I think the measures, given what we knew about this virus then, in terms of its transmission, were warranted, certainly had we introduced them earlier, we would have seen many fewer deaths.

"We made the rather optimistic assumption that somehow the elderly would be shielded. That simply failed to happen."

Meanwhile, the world's largest aircraft landed in Shannon Airport yesterday with a consignment of personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontline medical staff.

The Antonov AN-225 cargo transporter began its journey in China and made stops in Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Germany.

It was carrying one million medical gowns, and other medical equipment, for the Republic's Health Service Executive.

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