Coronavirus: NI lockdown extended for three more weeks

By Jayne McCormack
BBC News NI Political Reporter

Victory to the NHS graffiti in LondonderryImage source, Michael Cooper/ PA

Northern Ireland's coronavirus lockdown is to be extended until 9 May, Arlene Foster has said.

The first minister said the executive had taken its decision after a lengthy meeting on Wednesday.

Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill said now was the time to "dig in, to stay strong and save lives".

The announcement came as six more people diagnosed with Covid-19 in Northern Ireland died in hospital in the past 24 hours.

It brings the number of hospital deaths in NI to 140.

Since Tuesday, there have been 121 new confirmed cases - the total number of confirmed cases in Northern Ireland is 2,088, with 13,672 individuals tested.

The first minister said as Northern Ireland remained in the first wave of the virus, it was important to do "everything we can to reduce the peak".

'Biggest danger is complacency'

It is understood the executive's decision on whether to continue the lockdown beyond the next three weeks will be reviewed by 9 May, based on the data.

According to the government's coronavirus legislation, the need for restrictions must be reviewed at least once every 21 days, with the first review to be carried out by 16 April.

Image caption,
Arlene Foster thanked those who had obeyed the restrictions so far

Ms O'Neill said she understood the measures were "severe" but that the public was only being asked to comply with them to save lives.

"Our biggest danger in this period is complacency. The measures are showing positive results but if we relax our behaviour, we will be in danger," said the deputy first minister.

She added that as soon as the first wave of the virus is deemed to have passed, the executive would review its decision around restrictions.

Ms O'Neill said Northern Ireland was "still in the surge period".

Scotland and Wales have both said their lockdowns are set to be extended, while First Secretary of State Dominic Raab said the UK government did not expect to make any changes this week.

New figures released on Wednesday evening showed another 38 people have died there, bringing the total to 444.

Another 1,068 cases have been confirmed.

The Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (Nisra) said that, where possible, its weekly report would also state if the deaths took place in care homes.

Earlier, Health Minister Robin Swann said the Covid-19 modelling group's work indicated the impact of the virus may now be "less severe in the first wave than we had feared",

He told the Northern Ireland Assembly that while the majority of people in Northern Ireland were continuing to follow social distancing measures, modelling was by no means a certainty of what would happen next with the virus and he warned against complacency.

Modelling had suggested there could be 3,000 deaths in the first wave in Northern Ireland.

In other developments:

  • The Northern Ireland economy is enduring its "fastest and deepest" decline ever, Ulster Bank's chief economist has said
  • More than 18,000 people in Northern Ireland have expressed an interest in the Department of Health's NHS workforce appeal
  • Increased testing is needed to provide clarity and better understanding of how coronavirus is affecting life in Northern Ireland, the coroner has said
  • A phased lifting of lockdown restrictions on the island of Ireland is possible in the "near future" - but only when better Covid-19 detection measures are introduced, according to a medical expert