Northern Ireland

Some special school staff 'to be prioritised for Covid vaccinations'

Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill during a news conference at the 'Hill of the O'Neill' in Dungannon, Co Tyrone, last week. File picture by Kelvin Boyes, Press Eye, Press Association
Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill during a news conference at the 'Hill of the O'Neill' in Dungannon, Co Tyrone, last week. File picture by Kelvin Boyes, Press Eye, Press Association

Some staff working in special schools in Northern Ireland will be prioritised for Covid vaccinations, according to reports.

The departments of Health and Education have agreed the move.

The BBC reported that staff who care for children with the most complex needs in special schools will be prioritised.

It is not yet clear when the vaccinations will begin.

Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill is self isolating after a positive case in her home.

The tweeted: "I will now have to self isolate due to a positive test result in my home.

"I will work from home to continue to protect families, workers and to take us through this pandemic."

Ms O'Neill was expected to have a Covid test yesterday.

This is Ms O'Neill's second spell in self-isolation.

She self-isolated last October after a family member tested positive for Covid-19.

Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots tested positive for the virus in December.

He said he did not have any symptoms, but was tested while in hospital with a burst appendix.

Justice Minister Naomi Long previously said she believes she has had Covid-19.

She said doctors told her that she was probably infected with the virus last March and has been suffering after-effects since then.

Finance minister Conor Murphy, health minister Robin Swann and communities minister Carál Ní Chuilín have also previously self-isolated.

The latest figures from the Department of Health show that a further 11 people have died after testing positive for Covid-19 and 314 new cases have been diagnosed.

The death toll now stands at 1,861, with 93 deaths in the past seven days.

There are 735 people in hospital who have tested postive, including 64 in ICU with all bar nine of those people being ventilated.

The number of positive cases in the past seven days was 3,688, down from 4,923 in the previous seven-day period.

There are 119 care homes across the north are dealing with coronavirus outbreaks.

The infection rate per 100,000 of the population in the seven days from January 25 to January 31 had fallen to 196 from 261.6 in the previous seven-day period. The council area with the highest rate continues to be Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon (343.5), while Derry City and Strabane continues to have the lowest rate (90.3).

Ten further people have died of Covid in the Republic.

The Republic's Department of Health also confirmed an additional 1,062 new cases of the virus yesterday.

Meanwhile, a Covid-19 vaccination booking line for 65-69 year-olds has opened in the north.

The phone line is open from 8.30am to 5.30pm from Monday to Friday and can be reached on 0300 200 7813.

Online bookings can be made on

The Department of Health confirmed that 246,421 vaccines have been administered to date, of which 221,809 were first doses and 24,612 were second doses.

GPs are continuing to vaccinate those aged 70 and over as well as the clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV) with the AstraZeneca vaccine. Patients will be contacted by their practice.

The Department of Health has said everyone aged 65 and over will be offered a vaccine by the end of this month.

Meanwhile, more than 3,500 fines have been issued in the Republic for breaches of Covid-19 public health regulations.

Over the weekend, gardaí closed down house parties in Dublin, Sligo, Galway, Kildare, Kilkenny, Westmeath, Limerick, Cork, Tipperary, and issued more than 150 fines.

Gardaí continue to check international travel at airports and ports.

Between Thursday and Sunday, officers issued over 280 fines at Dublin Airport to people for leaving the country for non-essential travel.