Northern Ireland news

SSE Arena to remain open for Covid vaccinations over Easter bank holiday

Up to 40,000 people could be vaccinated each week at SSE Arena in Belfast. Picture by Hugh Russell
By Bimpe Archer and Claire Simpson

COVID-19 linked deaths recorded in Northern Ireland has passed 2,900, as health chief's confirmed Belfast's SSE Arena will remain open over the Easter bank holiday for vaccinations.

The 13 fatalities that occurred in the week March 20-26 took the total number of coronavirus-related deaths recorded by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (Nisra) to 2,908.

First Minister Arlene Foster asked people "to take a moment this Easter Sunday to remember all those we have lost and those who are continuing to experience pain and hardship".

Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill said while it is a "time of mixed emotions""with the success of our vaccination programme and the gradual easing of restrictions, we can all look to the future together with hope and optimism".

The Nisra data, which provides a broader picture of the impact of Covid-19 than the 2,108 death toll reported by the Department of Health, reveals the deaths of 1,006 care home residents were linked to the virus.

Of those deaths, 770 deaths were in care homes and further 236 residents who died in hospital having been moved there for treatment.

Care home residents make up about 35 per cent of deaths linked to Covid-19 in the north.

Nisra obtains its data from death certificates on which Covid-19 is recorded as a factor by a medical professional, regardless of where the death took place or whether the patient tested positive.

The statistics agency reports its Covid-19 data with a week lag.

Of the deaths recorded by Nisra by March 26, 1,910 (66 per cent) occurred in hospitals.

The Republic's National Public Health Emergency Team reported eight more deaths related to Covid-19 - four in March and the others in February, taking the south's toll to 4,713.

The median age of those who died was 74 years and the range between 51 and 94 years.

There were also a further 591 confirmed cases of Covid-19, bringing it's total to 237,187.

Of the recent cases, 72 per cent are under 45 years old, with the median age just 31.

There are 264 Covid-19 patients in hospital, with 62 in ICU.

The Republic has now administered 840,561 vaccine doses.

The SSE, which opened as a vaccination centre on Monday is the largest in Northern Ireland, aims to administer up to 40,000 jabs a week.

Operated by the South Eastern Trust, around 60 vaccination stations have been set up around the large amphitheatre.

Health officials aim that the centre will remain open for 14 hours a day, seven days a week.

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