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Eight further Covid deaths in NI as Health Minister tables proposal to extend circuit break by one week

There have been eight further Covid-related deaths reported by the Department of Health today (Wednesday).

All eight of which occurred in the last 24 hours – according to the official dashboard – which has the overall total now at 810.

There were a further 791 cases reported in that timeframe, with 73 in Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon and a further 40 in Newry, Mourne and Down.

A total of 4,073 individuals were tested.

There are 441 people now in hospital – that’s 21 more than Tuesday – as a result of the virus, 47 of whom are in intensive care units – which is three less than yesterday. There are currently 34 ICU beds available in NI.

Seventy-three patients are in Craigavon today – the same as yesterday. To date, 504 patients have been discharged from the Co. Armagh hospital.

There are currently eight Covid patients in Daisy Hill Hospital and 11 at Lurgan Hospital.

Meanwhile, Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said her party (Sinn Fein), the UUP, the SDLP and the Alliance Party voted in favour of the health minister’s proposals to extend restrictions.

However, she said, “the DUP blocked those proposals”.

In a statement released this afternoon, she said she was clear that the Executive’s approach “must be guided by public health advice because the priority must be to save lives, support workers, families and businesses, and to ensure that people’s livelihoods are protected”.

It continued: “At the Executive we were warned by the Chief Medical Officer that any easing of the current restrictions would cause ‘excess deaths’.

“The advice was stark and clear – if we don’t keep current restrictions in place for another two weeks, more people will die.

“My priority has been to save lives, protect livelihoods and ensure that our health service would not be overwhelmed by the spread of the virus.

“Last night the Health Minister brought forward a paper which made it very clear there should be an extension of the current restrictions for another two weeks to reduce the spread of the virus and its impact on society.

“The health minister’s proposal to extend the restrictions was put to a vote in the Executive.
Sinn Féin, the UUP, the SDLP and the Alliance Party, a majority of the Executive voted in favour of the health minister’s proposals.

“The DUP voted against, used their veto and blocked the Health Minister’s proposal.

“The Coronavirus doesn’t recognise or respect any community, it is a threat to all our people. The Chief Medical Officer’s advice last night was stark and clear that easing of the restrictions would cause excess deaths.

“We will return to the Executive today and my approach will continue to be guided by the medical advice and the Executive’s joint policy objective to save lives, prevent our health service and workers being overwhelmed and provide financial support for businesses, workers and their families.

“Four weeks on, workers and low-income families are still waiting on financial help promised by the Department of Economy. That delay is unacceptable and needs to be fixed immediately.”

Speaking to Good Morning Ulster, First Minister Arlene Foster said: “Despite the fact there has been no change in the medical advice, none whatsoever – as to why they now are in a situation that they are saying let’s keep haridressers and beauticians closed, let us keep coffee shops on our high streets closed. In the knowledge there will be no change in two weeks’ time and we will be in the same position.

“Any other decision will lead to excess deaths. That is what makes these decisions so difficult.

“I am not going to get into a situation where I say that dying of Covid is more important than dying of cancer, or dying of stroke or diabetes complications.

“There are no easy answers. We need to find compromise.”

While deadlock continues on the hill, the Press Association is reporting that Health Minister Robin Swann has tabled a proposal to extend the circuit break lockdown by one week in a bid to break the impasse.

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