Northern Ireland news

Covid vaccinations open for 45-49-year-olds as British Army medics arrive to assist in rollout

The SSE Arena in Belfast opened as a mass vaccination centre on Monday. Picture by Hugh Russell

BRITISH Army medics are to support the rollout of the coronavirus vaccination programme as bookings opened this morning for those in the 45-49 age group.

It is understood the 100 military staff will be mainly based at the SSE Arena, following its opening on Monday as a mass vaccination centre with plans to ramp up staff numbers to deliver 40,000 jabs a week.

The booking system opened this morning for those aged 45 and over. Those eligible can book their appointment here.

The medically trained personnel travelled from their RAF base in Oxfordshire earlier this week.

It is the second time army medics have provided support to the frontline during the pandemic.

Latest department figures show five further Covid deaths yesterday and 151 cases.

It takes the death toll recorded by the department to 2,116.

There have been eight Covid-related deaths in the past week, down from nine in the previous week.

It takes the total for the past week to 998 cases, down from 1,059 in the previous week.

There are currently 131 patients currently being treated for the virus across the north's hospitals, of which 18 are in ICU.

The rolling seven-day case rate is 53 per 100,000 of the population - the lowest it has been since September 20 last year.

Coronavirus outbreaks are present in five care homes.

Latest statistics on Covid-19 vaccinations that more than half of the adult population have received their first dose, with 872,751 jabs administered to date. Of these, 740,729 are first doses while 132,022 are second doses.

In the Republic, a further 14 coronavirus-related deaths were confirmed yesterday and 368 new cases.

The number of people being treated in intensive care is down three to 67.

In a statement, the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) said that 12 of the deaths occurred this month, one in February and one in January.

The age range of those who died was 68 to 97, while the average age of those who died was 83.

There have now been 4,681 coronavirus-related deaths in the Republic while the total number of confirmed cases now stands at 235,444.

The 14-day incidence rate of the virus per 100,000 is now 164.1. The counties with the highest rate of infection are Offaly (474.6), Donegal (278.9) and Dublin (246).

Meanwhile, new research has shown that almost half of people in the north (49.3 per cent) have Covid-19 antibodies.

Some 54.7 per cent of people in private households in England are likely to have tested positive for the antibodies in the week to March 14, along with 50.5 per cent in Wales, according to the latest estimates from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

In Scotland about two in five people (42.6 per cent) are likely to have tested positive for antibodies in the week to March 14.

The figures are for people in private households and do not include settings such as hospitals and care homes.

The presence of coronavirus antibodies suggests someone has either had Covid-19 in the past or has been vaccinated.

It takes between two and three weeks after infection or vaccination for the human body to make enough antibodies to fight the virus.

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