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12 Covid-related deaths as fresh calls made for ‘guidance’ for special schools and childcare settings

'The Minister must urgently address safety concerns in special schools and other settings where staff provide close personal care and education'

Corona Covid

There were 12 further Covid-related deaths reported by the Department of Health today (Saturday).

Today’s stats – according to the official dashboard – take in the last 24 hours with 10 of the 12 passing away inside that period.

The overall total number of deaths recorded by the Department now stands at 1,716.

There were a further 670 positive cases reported in the last 24 hours, with 133 in Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon – still the highest in NI  – and a further 81 in Newry, Mourne and Down. There were 89 cases in Mid Ulster.

A total of 2,853 individuals were tested.

There are 810 – a decrease of 18 – people now in hospital as a result of the virus, 66 – down six – of whom are in intensive care units.

Saturday’s figures come as Education Minister Peter Weir faces renewed calls for “guidance” to be given on the current Covid-19 restrictions for special schools and childcare settings.

Newry and Armagh Sinn Fein MLA Liz Kimmins said it was “unacceptable that special schools and other childcare settings who have been asked to open have not been provided with up-to-date guidance on the current Covid restrictions”.

She addd: “Last minute decisions, out-of-date guidance and a failure to communicate with school staff and their representatives, together with concerns over PPE, are driving a crisis of confidence within the staff and amongst parents.

“The Minister must urgently address safety concerns in special schools and other settings where staff provide close personal care and education.

“Following the serious concerns raised with me by school leaders, staff and parents, I have written to Minister Weir highlighting these serious issues and the need for him to step up to the plate and put forward solutions immediately.

”Our special school staff in particular have been let down because of a lack of appropriate guidance from the Minister as well as a lack of additional support and mitigations which are required to make our special schools safe.

”The Minister must urgently engage with representatives of the special school sector, listen to their concerns and afford them the flexibility they need to put in place arrangements which are safe and which work for their students and their staff during these difficult times.

”We also need to see progress on the issue of prioritising education staff for vaccinations and in particular our special school staff. These people are frontline workers and must be afforded every level of protection as they carry out their important work.”

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