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Coronavirus: Robin Swann set to recommend new Covid-19 measures

1 month ago 22
Robin Swann, Professor Ian Young and Dr Michael McBrideImage copyright Kelvin Boyes/Press Eye/Pa Wire Image caption The health minister mentioned the possibility of tightening restrictions at a Stormont briefing on Tuesday

Health Minister Robin Swann is expected to recommend a tightening of the Covid-19 restrictions when the Stormont Executive meets later.

These are expected to include a recommendation to lower the number of people allowed to meet indoors.

The move is in response to a marked increase in the number of coronavirus cases in recent weeks.

On Thursday the head of the Public Health Agency said localised lockdowns were "practically inevitable".

Dr Gerry Waldron said the virus was spread much quicker than the PHA expected after restrictions were eased earlier in the summer.

He said: "If things continue as they are going, I think it's [local lockdown] practically inevitable, but hopefully people will take heed of the issue."

He added that some people who had tested positive for coronavirus, or had been in contact with someone else who had, were ignoring the advice to stay at home and self-isolate.

He said: "By doing that, they are putting individuals they come into contact with at risk."

On Wednesday, the Department for Health confirmed an additional 34 cases of Covid-19.

The total number of deaths remains at 559 after no further deaths were announced on Wednesday, with a total of 6,505 positive tests since the pandemic began.

The number of new daily cases is up significantly from the end of June.

It is understood ministers may also raise questions about plans for pupils to return to schools and the effect the upgrading of exams for school leavers will have on local colleges and universities.

Speaking on Wednesday, Mr Swann said "we have to step in now" to deal with the rise in new cases.

The health minister said there was no one trend to explain the recent rise in case numbers - otherwise it would be easier to act.

"We cannot put our finger on any specific, either location, or activity or industry, as to a cause of the number of increases and positive tests we have seen."

He also refused to rule out a return to full lockdown in the coming months.

Decisions on restrictions will be made after ministers have taken advice from the Northern Ireland Chief Medical Officer Dr Michael McBride and Chief Scientific Adviser Prof Ian Young.

Prof Young said on Wednesday that Northern Ireland has a higher rate of Covid-19 per 100,000 of the population than the rest of the UK at present.

Image copyright PA Media Image caption Prof Ian Young said there had been a tenfold increase in new infections since the beginning of July

He said there had been a tenfold increase in new infections since the beginning of July, with almost 300 new cases being confirmed in Northern Ireland in the past week.

Northern Ireland's rate currently showed 24 cases per 100,000 over the past 14 days, evidence that pointed to the virus spreading again, he added.

In the Republic of Ireland, lockdown measures which had previously been lifted have been reversed - with restrictions placed on the numbers allowed to gather in indoor and outdoor spaces.

Indoor gatherings - excluding shops, restaurants and other businesses - are to be restricted to six people.

Those aged over 70 are again being asked to stay at home as much as possible, and it is recommended that people work from home and avoid public transport.

On Wednesday, the Republic of Ireland's Department of Health recorded two deaths from the virus and an additional 54 cases.

There have now been 1,775 Covid-19 related deaths in the country and 27,547 cases.

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