Northern Ireland has seen its first death from coronavirus.
The Department of Health said the patient, who had tested positive for COVID-19, had sadly passed away in hospital.
The patient was elderly, had an underlying medical condition and was being treated in a hospital in the greater Belfast area.
Health Minister Robin Swann said: “I want to express my deep sadness at this death and send my condolences to the patient’s family and friends. It is, of course, essential that we respect their privacy at this sad time.
“I would once again appeal to everyone to play their part in fighting the spread of this virus.”
First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill have expressed sympathy
First Minister Arlene Foster said: “This is a sad day for Northern Ireland. Our thoughts and prayers are first and foremost with the family and friends of the patient who has died. And we are immeasurably grateful to our health service staff who cared for this person.
“This is not unexpected news. We knew that this pandemic would inevitably cost precious lives. We cannot stop it. But it is incumbent on all of us to do whatever we can to slow its spread and shield those most vulnerable from the effects of this virus.”
Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said: “At the heart of this is a person who has lost their life to Covid-19. While we knew this day would come, it doesn’t make it any less devastating for the loved ones of that individual.
“I offer them my heartfelt sympathy at this difficult time. I also pay tribute to our amazing health workers who are doing everything they can to provide the best possible care for people in the most difficult circumstances.
“This sad news brings home to us all why it is so important to take every step possible to protect ourselves and the most vulnerable. The social distancing measures we are urging everyone to take are not easy, but they are necessary.
“We all have a part to play in keeping people safe and ultimately saving lives.”
Earlier this morning, Chief Social Work Officer Sean Holland said people should minimise visits to care homes.
“It’s not a blanket ban at this stage, but certainly I’d ask all relatives and carers to think carefully about going into a home where there are very vulnerable people,” he said.
“Also I think it’s important that staff in those homes support residents to stay in touch with their families using ways that they may not normally use.”
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