Fears of further lockdowns in Northern Ireland as spike in cases continues
FEARS of further lockdowns across Northern Ireland are mounting as health minister Robin Swann yesterday warned that nothing is "off the table" due to rising Covid cases.
Restrictions came into force across parts of Co Armagh yesterday and fortnightly localised shutdowns are among proposals discussed by Stormont.
Sources have also told The Irish News that health service management are discussing the possibility of a more stringent lockdown in December to coincide with the school holidays.
Planning assumptions are based around a surge in the virus at the end of next month when hospitals are also tackling winter pressures.
At a pressing briefing earlier this week, Mr Swann warned that the north was on a "knife edge".
The spike in people testing positive now means Northern Ireland has more cases per head of population size than in Britain and the Republic.
In mid-June, the north's authorities were recording some of the lowest daily cases.
Mr Swann said "intense" lockdown measures could be introduced if advised by public health officials.
Speaking to the BBC yesterday, he said: "I don't think anything's off the table."
He added: "This is actually in our hands. It was in our hands back through the summer time when people observed the simple messages we are putting out; good hand hygiene, good respiratory hygiene, social distancing, face coverings - all that worked for us a few months ago. It can work for us now.
"What I'm asking people is please re-engage with that messaging because that's what prevents us from having to take those steps."
The Department of Health yesterday confirmed two further deaths in the north and a further 163 cases.
The total number of cases now stands at 8,943, including 763 in the last seven days.
As of 5pm yesterday, the BT60 postcode area was brought under new restrictions in relation to household visits and gatherings in gardens, which already cover the greater Belfast area and Ballymena.
Areas affected include parts of Armagh city, Keady, Killylea and Markethill.
The weekly bulletin by a government statistics agency also showed there were eight coronavirus-related deaths recorded in week ending September 11.
The north's overall death toll stands at 887, according to the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (Nisra).
Almost half the deaths were care home residents, while two-thirds were people over the age of 75.
The comparative number of fatalities reported daily by the department to September 11 was 570.
These figures are based on patients having previously tested positive for the virus, whereas the Nisra figures are based on the information entered on death certificates, completed by medical professionals.
They may or may not have previously tested positive for the virus.