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Coronavirus: Warning as NI records highest daily Covid case numbers

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Northern Ireland could have 1,000 new Covid cases per day in a month's time if the present trend continues, the chief scientific adviser has warned.

Another 320 cases were confirmed on Tuesday, the highest daily total since the current tests model was rolled out.

No deaths were reported, the Department of Health's toll remains at 578.

Chief Scientific Adviser Prof Ian Young said he believes the public will face this virus "for the rest of our lives" as immunity may only last a few months.

However, Chief Medical Officer Dr Michael McBride said "treatments will become better" and he expressed hope that after a difficult winter, the infection situation will improve by next spring.

New daily records for infections

In total 11,269 cases of Covid-19 have been diagnosed in Northern Ireland since the pandemic began, but 15% of those have been recorded in the past week.

Three of the highest daily numbers have been confirmed in the past five days.

Previously, the 319 cases documented on Saturday and the 273 on Friday had set new records for the daily change in case numbers.

There are currently eight patients in intensive care wards.

Derry and Strabane District Council area had the biggest upward change on Tuesday, with 72 new cases, followed by Belfast with 71.

The next highest was Newry, Mourne and Down with 43 additional cases.

The latest number also show there are 27 active outbreaks in care homes.

In the Republic of Ireland, 363 new cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed and one more person has died, bringing the overall death toll there to 1,803.

1,000 cases a day

In a media briefing to journalists, Prof Ian Young said if the present trend continues, Northern Ireland could have 1,000 new cases a day in a month's time.

He said Northern Ireland is currently averaging 250 cases a day and the number of Covid-19 patients in hospital is doubling every 13 days.

In a month, he said that would equate to 200 patients in hospital with the disease.

Prof Young said that in the peak of the first wave of the coronavirus, we had about 300 Covid patients in hospital, but he warned we could pass that within six weeks if the actions being taken now do not have the desired effect.

Restrictions beginning to make an impact

However, the Chief Medical Officer Dr Michael McBride, said: "It doesn't have to be this way."

Dr McBride said there was a narrow window of opportunity to intervene and stop the spread, adding the restrictions put in place by the Stormont Executive are beginning to have an impact.

"We have seen some evidence of the effectiveness of those measures," Dr McBride said.

Case numbers in Ballymena, County Antrim are down by 50% and the rate of rise in the Greater Belfast area is being "blunted".

Ballymena and Belfast were among the first areas to be included in localised lockdowns earlier this month, during which residents were told to restrict household visits and unnecessary journeys.

Vaccine hopes

Prof Young also told the briefing: "The Covid virus is going to be with us forever, for the rest of our lives."

"We don't think people do remain immune, we think the natural antibodies to the virus disappear over months rather than years."

Dr. Michael McBride said: "The best we can hope for is that this will be like seasonal flu and if we're really fortunate, someday we'll get a combined seasonal flu and Covid vaccine.

"Our treatments will become better and we'll probably need more than one vaccine, but I've no doubt that we'll need to have a range of different vaccines."

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