There have been five further Covid-related deaths reported by the Department of Health today (Friday).
All five occurred in the last 24 hours, according to the official dashboard, which has the overall total now at 639.
There were a further 1,252 cases reported in that timeframe, with 132 in Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon – now the third highest in NI behind Belfast and Mid Ulster – and a further 91 in Newry, Mourne and Down.
There are 296 people now in hospital – up five from Thursday – as a result of the virus, 34 of whom are in intensive care units.
Sixty-one patients are in Craigavon Area Hospital today – two more than yesterday. To date, 390 patients have been discharged from the Co. Armagh hospital – that’s five more since yesterday.
Meanwhile, Health Minister Robin Swann says he is deeply disturbed that cancer procedures are being postponed and is seeking assurances they will be rescheduled urgently.
The Minister will be looking to the Trusts to reschedule cancelled appointments as soon as they feasibly can and to ensure that patients are kept fully informed.
The Minister said: “This situation is extremely distressing for patients and families and I sincerely apologise for the distress that has been caused.
“This is also a dreadful position for our healthcare staff and hospital managers to be in. The more critically ill Covid patients there are, the less staffing capacity we have in the system for non-Covid services. This is the dire reality that we find ourselves in.
“Stamping down on Covid-19 infection rates is now more critical than ever as reducing our rates helps to protect our cancer and other vital services. As the citizens of Northern Ireland showed earlier this year, our best defence is to strictly adhere to the social distancing and hygiene advice. The protection of our health services is in everyone’s hands.”
Continuing the Minister reflected on the significant pressures that the health service has faced for many years.
He said: “It is no secret that we have long standing staffing pressures in our health service and they unfortunately cannot be fixed in the short term. I am committed to increasing our workforce however it takes years to train specialist staff who are equipped with the knowledge and skills that our health service needs and deserves.”
The Minister concluded: “Should we have a healthier health service? Should we be better able to absorb unexpected crises like a pandemic? Of course we should. It is a sad reality that after a decade of running on empty it is the exact opposite that has happened.”
Elsewhere, latest figures published today by NISRA show that twenty-seven deaths involving Covid-19 occurred in the last week, from October 10-16. The total Covid-19 related deaths figure stands at 942.
Of this total, 519 (55.1%) took place in hospital, 357 (37.9%) in care homes, eight (0.8%) in hospices and 58 (6.2%) at residential addresses or other locations. The 365 deaths which occurred in care homes and hospices involved 86 separate establishments.
The comparative number of deaths reported daily by the Department of Health to October 16 was 610. These figures are based on patients having previously tested positive for the virus, whereas the NISRA figures are based on the information entered on death certificates, completed by medical professionals.
They may or may not have previously tested positive for the virus.