There have been a further two Covid-related deaths reported by the Department of Health in Northern Ireland today (Wednesday).
Today’s stats – according to the official dashboard – take in the last 24 hours with both passing away inside that period.
The overall total number of deaths recorded by the Department now stands at 2,043
Of those deaths, the ABC Borough accounts for 272 – no change from Tuesday – Newry, Mourne and Down District the same at 157; and Mid-Ulster, up one, with 189.
There were a further 260 positive cases reported in the last 24 hours, with 43 in Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon – the second highest in NI. There was a further 21 in Newry, Mourne and Down and 24 in Mid-Ulster.
A total of 1,787 individuals were tested.
There are 356 – 20 less than yesterday – people now in hospital as a result of the virus, 44 of whom are in intensive care units.
There are currently 31 ICU beds available in Northern Ireland.
A total of 121 – six less than yesterday – Covid patients are currently in hospitals in the Southern Trust area – with 66 in Craigavon; 16 in Daisy Hill, 34 in Lurgan, two in St Luke’s, Armagh and none in South Tyrone.
Meanwhile, the release of a further £6.9m of funding to almost 1,600 individual artists has been welcomed by Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey.
The £6.9m is part of the Individual Emergency Resilience Programme (IERP), which is being delivered by the Arts Council on the Department for Communities’ behalf.
Individual artists, such as musicians, actors, freelancers and craft workers, will be offered grants of up to £5,000 and for those with a disability up to £7,500.
The latest round of IERP funding is in addition to £4.274 million awarded to individuals since April 2020 and makes up over £33m in Covid-19 funding for the arts, heritage, culture and languages sectors.
Minister Hargey said: “I am pleased to say that my Department has been able to meet all of the eligible claims for financial support from the Individual Emergency Resilience Programme 2 (IERP).
“This fund built on the initial Artist Emergency Programme (AEP), opened in April 2020 as a direct response to the impact on the sector of Covid-19.
“These latest awards brings the total number of individual artists my Department has been able to support from this fund to over 3,000 people.
“They are in recognition of the crucial importance of the arts and culture sector and the social, creative and economic contribution it makes to our entire society. I will continue to do everything I can to help the sector during this hugely difficult time.”
Roisín McDonough, Chief Executive of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented: “The Arts Council is today offering 1,562 awards to creative individuals across Northern Ireland totalling £6,910,796. This is the second call this year for the Individuals Emergency Resilience Programme (IERP 2); an exceptional response from the Minister and NI Executive in the ongoing pandemic to support those working in the creative sector.
“The programme was co-designed with the Department for Communities and we received applications from a footprint much broader than ACNI’s usual remit for individual artists. It included all those working in the creative economy such as venue support staff, set designers, technicians, comedians, DJs, rappers, editors and proof-readers among others.
“Today’s announcement of support to these individuals will provide reassurance to those facing enormous personal challenges as artists and creatives at this time. We are hopeful that our artists, arts organisations and the wider cultural sector can resume creative activity at some point later in 2021. They are one of the sectors that has been disproportionately impacted throughout this crisis; unable to open at any point in the pandemic and likely to be one of the last to emerge from the lockdown.”