Northern Ireland news

Five more Covid deaths in the north as Swann urges unity

Paul Ainsworth

FIVE more Covid-related deaths have been recorded in the north, as health minister Robin Swann warned against "little Ulster" and "ourselves alone" solutions to the crisis.

Speaking at a press briefing at Stormont, Mr Swann insisted there were "no simple solutions" to the ongoing crisis.

"What we are going through is echoed in countries all around us," he said.

"There is no 'little Ulster' or 'ourselves alone' solution that lets us escape that."

The Department of Health confirmed another 1,039 cases of Covid-19 yesterday, taking the north's total since the beginning of the pandemic to almost 30,000.

A total of 6,791 cases have been diagnosed in the last seven days alone.

There are currently 289 patients in NI hospitals with Covid-19, compared to just 41 this time last month.

The health minister warned that Northern Ireland would see hospital admissions exceed those during the first wave of the pandemic "within days".

"This is how grave our current situation is."

The Ulster Unionist MLA said the families of the five latest Covid-19 victims have been "plunged into unbearable grief".

"If we don't stop this virus spreading, many more avoidable deaths will occur in our hospitals and care homes, and our health service will find it increasingly difficult to carry out vital non-Covid treatments."

Meanwhile, in the Republic, the Department of Health announced a further three deaths and 1,167 Covid-19 cases.

A total of 314 patients are receiving hospital treatment for coronavirus.

The Irish government has moved the state to the toughest 'Level 5' restrictions in a bid to halt the spread of the virus.

Under rules in place for the next six weeks, people are urged not to travel further than five miles from home and non-essential retailers have been ordered to close, although schools will remain open.

Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan said: "Everyone needs to stay at home, other than for essential reasons. Follow the public health advice and treat everyone that you come into contact with as though they are a close contact of someone with Covid-19 - keep your distance, avoid meeting others.

"We are facing a big challenge, but we have faced this challenge before, and that means we know how to suppress this virus, by following the public health advice in everything we do."

In London, meanwhile, the British government announced a further 26,688 positive cases - the highest daily increase to date.

This has pushed the UK's overall total to 789,229.

Another 191 deaths were also reported, taking the total during the pandemic to 44,158, and there were almost 1,000 new hospital admissions.

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