Northern Ireland news

Four more Covid deaths recorded in the north

The number of people having had their second Covid-19 vaccination jab in the north has risen to 30,796
Paul Ainsworth

THERE have been four more Covid-linked deaths in Northern Ireland.

It takes the total number of fatalities recorded by the Department of Health during the pandemic to 2,036.

Testing has also identified another 187 positive cases, meaning that since the outbreak started there has been 111,166 confirmed cases in the north.

There were 51 Covid patients in intensive care wards yesterday, with 41 being ventilated.

However, health trusts have indicated there are fewer older people in hospitals since the start of the vaccination programme.

Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill yesterday cautioned the public not to expect a rapid exit from lockdown, insisting the route back to normality will be slow and steady.

Her remarks came as British Prime Minister Boris Johnson outlined a four-stage plan to lift Covid-19 restrictions in England.

Pupils are returning to class on March 8 and all limits on social contact could be lifted by June 21.

Ms O'Neill and first minister Arlene Foster are due to outline Northern Ireland's plans in the assembly next week.

Answering questions from MLAs yesterday, the Sinn Féin vice president acknowledged that people were looking for some hope around what the future held.

"We very much want to give the public the route map and how we're going to reverse out of the current restrictive measures which we have in place," she said.

"So I think that everybody's looking for some hope and they're looking towards the future.

"We want to spell that out for people and it needs to be a step-by-step process but there's no doubt in my mind that it needs to be a gradual.

"It's going be slow and steady in terms of lifting of restrictions.

"But with the rollout of the vaccine in place now and the fact that it's working so well, and we commend all those that are involved in delivering the vaccine, that combined with keeping the virus suppressed for as long as possible, then we need to chart out for people what the future looks like and we hope to do that next week."

Ministers have already agreed to extend a strict lockdown to April 1, albeit with a review on March 18.

Meanwhile, there was one more Covid-linked death reported in the Republic yesterday, while another 686 cases of infection were identified.

To date, 340,704 vaccinations have been administered in the south compared to more than 488,000 north of the border.

The CEO of the Health Service Executive, Paul Reid, said more than 100,000 jabs would be administered ithis week, up from the roughly 80,000 given last week.

From April, it is hoped that will rise to 250,000.

Mr Reid told RTÉ: "What we are beginning to see is strong improvements in both healthcare workers and indeed long-term care facilities."

Meanwhile, the UK as a whole has now recorded a total of 120,757 deaths following another 178 deaths reported yesterday.

The total number of positive UK cases rose by another 10,641 to 4,126,150.

UK-wide, a total of 17,723,840 doses of Covid-19 vaccinations have been issued to date.

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