There have been eight further Covid-related deaths reported by the Department of Health in Northern Ireland today (Wednesday).
According to the official dashboard, all eight occurred within the last 24 hour reporting period.
Two of those deaths occurred in the ABC Borough which now accounts for 282 overall. Newry, Mourne and Down District now has a total of 164 deaths. Mid-Ulster currently has 196.
The overall total number of deaths recorded by the Department now stands at 2,087.
There were a further 147 positive cases reported in the last 24 hours, with 18 in Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon – the second highest in NI behind Belfast, which had 30. There was a further six in Newry, Mourne and Down and 15 in Mid-Ulster.
A total of 1,710 individuals were tested.
There are 212 – 10 less than yesterday – people now in hospital as a result of the virus, 29 of whom are in intensive care units.
There are currently 45 people in hospitals in the Southern Trust area – 23 in Craigavon and 22 in Lurgan – being treated for Covid-19.
There are currently 18 ICU beds available in Northern Ireland.
The figures come as it was confirmed on Wednesday that employers from key sectors within Northern Ireland can now access the national testing programme as part of a targeted expansion of asymptomatic testing
Launching the programme today, Health Minister Robin Swann said: “As COVID-19 infections continue to fall and the vaccination programme continues to deliver at scale and pace, it is important that we do not lose sight of the need to continue to control this virus.
“If we are to emerge from lockdown, we need to use every instrument at our disposal to identify and target outbreaks that may occur across different parts of our society. New testing technologies make it possible to test at greater scale, frequency and pace than has previously been possible.
“In the early stages of the pandemic, the severity of some outbreaks led to some workplaces being temporarily closed. The rollout of workplace testing will help to prevent this by identifying asymptomatic positive cases and interrupting transmission of the virus. This will benefit employers and society as a whole as it will help to keep infection rates down across Northern Ireland.”
Lateral Flow Tests (LFTs) will be used in the workplace testing initiative and will help in the expansion of asymptomatic testing across a range of settings in Northern Ireland.
Individuals with positive LFTs will have to isolate immediately along with their households. They should then book a PCR swab test at their closest test site to confirm the result. Community contact tracing will be initiated on PCR confirmation.
The Minister concluded: “Asymptomatic testing initiatives are already operating successfully for staff and pupils in schools and universities, and for staff in Translink and NI Fire and Rescue Service.
“My officials are continuing to work closely with government departments and local government to identify and prioritise other public sector organisations and emergency services who may require access to the testing programme.
“I am also inviting private sector organisations who may wish to access the national testing programme to contact the Department to register their interest.
“Details of the criteria for accessing the programme, and the sectors we are prioritising in the initial phase, are available on the Department’s website (www.health-ni.gov.uk/workforce-testing).”