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17 Covid-related deaths as council to discuss motion seeking extension to £20 Universal Credit rise

'As the economic facts show, this extra amount has helped families and claimants to meet the extra costs due to the pandemic and has supported many local businesses'

Corona Covid

There were 17 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 13 of the 17 passing away inside that period.

The overall total number of deaths recorded by the Department now stands at 1,831.

The ABC Borough accounts for 232 – up six – deaths; NMD 134 – up tw0; and Mid-Ulster with 160 – up one.

There were a further 455 positive cases reported in the last 24 hours, with 101 in Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon – still the highest in NI – and a further 43 in Newry, Mourne and Down. There were 66 cases in Mid Ulster.

A total of 2,205 individuals were tested.

There are 713 people now in hospital as a result of the virus, 69 of whom are in intensive care units.

There are currently 32 ICU beds available in Northern Ireland.

A total of 179 Covid patients are currently in hospitals in the Southern Trust area; 127 in Craigavon; 27 in Daisy Hill; 25 in Lurgan and none in South Tyrone.

Today’s figures come as Newry, Mourne and Down District Council prepares to debate a notice of motion seeking an extension to the £20 a week Universal Credit payment beyond March 2021.

The payment was put in place by Chancellor Rishi Sunak as part of his Covid-19 response but it due to expire in two months time.

A notice of motion will go to NMD Council on Monday when the issue will be debated.

SDLP Councillor Terry Andrews is seeking continued – and indeed additional – support.

He described the Universal Credit increase as a “welcome and timely initiative given increased heating, energy and food costs from the pandemic”.

But Councillor Andrews – in his motion – adds: “It must be noted that not all benefits were increased and so some in need did not get support. We must remember benefit cuts, in real terms, took place over the past 10 years.

“However, this increase, for what it is worth, is welcome.”

The councillor says the Chancellor now needs to ensure that the £20 increase extends beyond March of this year.

And he adds: “As the economic facts show, this extra amount has helped families and claimants to meet the extra costs due to the pandemic and has supported many local businesses.

“In this motion we are asking that Newry Mourne and Down District Council support the campaign to retain this extra payment and extend it to other benefits. The 120,000 children living in poverty in Northern Ireland deserve any assistance available to them.”

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