Saturday, October 17, 2020

By Press Association

A man walks past an entrance to Belfast City Hospital after the Stormont executive announced closures of schools, pubs and restaurants. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Images.

There have been 1,031 new Covid-19 cases in Northern Ireland in the last 24-hour reporting period, the region’s Department of Health has announced.

Of the North’s total 26,208 cases, 6,891 have been notified in the last seven days.

There were a further two deaths reported on Saturday, taking the toll recorded by the department to 610.

The figures come as Northern Ireland’s health minister Robin Swann warned yesterday that the number of patients being treated in hospital for Covid-19 is set to exceed those seen in the first wave of the pandemic within one to two weeks.

There are 231 patients with Covid-19 being treated in hospital in the region, with 27 in intensive care.

“If current trends remain unabated, hospital inpatients will exceed those of wave one in one-two weeks and ICU inpatients will exceed wave one shortly afterwards,” Mr Swann said in a statement to the Assembly.

Stormont announced a circuit-breaker lockdown on Wednesday in a bid to halt a dramatic rise in the spread of Covid-19 across the North, which came into force Friday evening for a four week period.

In addition to the hospitality industry being closed apart from takeaway and delivery services, most entertainment venues have shut while schools have closed for a period of two weeks.


In terms of sport, elite training and competition can continue, both indoors and outdoors.

Whether spectators may attend remained unclear on Friday evening as fans turned up for a Danske Bank Premiership clash between Coleraine and Ballymena United at Coleraine Showgrounds.

The Northern Ireland Football League (NIFL) said it received a letter from Communities Minister Caral Nu Chuilin advising it was “necessary to stop spectators from attending sporting events”.

Coleraine Football Club chairman Colin McKendry said some fans were already inside the grounds when he arrived, while others were initially kept outside while they sought clarity from police.

All the supporters were later allowed into the Coleraine venue after it was deemed unsafe to keep them outside, risking a contravention of a rule limiting numbers who can gather publicly.

First Minister Arlene Foster responded to developments on social media, stating the regulations “do not ban spectators in the grounds of elite sports”.

“The existing position is maintained permitting a limited number to attend. Preposterous for clubs to be told anything to the contrary,” she posted on Twitter.

Stormont’s leaders issued a joint appeal for compliance with the region’s latest Covid-19 restrictions yesterday: “We have four weeks to turn this around and we’re appealing to everyone to please get behind this effort to fight back against Covid-19 and save lives,” it said.

“These are difficult days. But it won’t last forever and we will get through it.”

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