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Coronavirus: Robin Swann tempers hopes of return to normality

By Louise Cullen
BBC News NI

Published
image copyrightPA Media
image captionRobin Swann said the number of cases had continued to plateau and decline slightly, but slowly.

The health minister has warned expectations of a return to any kind of normality after four weeks of tightened restrictions is "entirely misplaced".

Robin Swann said the number of Covid-19 cases has continued to plateau and decline slightly, but slowly.

The Department of Heath announced 566 new cases on Friday, down from 822 on Thursday.

A further nine deaths related to the virus were announced, bringing the department's total to 697.

Mr Swann said the R number - the rate of transmission, or the number of people an infected person may pass the virus on to - has fallen since last week.

But, he added, maintaining progress will be a "central consideration" when the NI Executive comes to consider what may happen after the end of the current period of restrictions.

On 16 October schools were closed for a fortnight while bars, restaurants, cafes, hairdressers and beauty parlours were closed for four weeks.

"What we cannot countenance is allowing case numbers to surge once again, through complacency, or poor levels of compliance with public health advice, or premature relaxation of all restrictions," Mr Swann said.

In a written statement to the assembly, Mr Swann said the R number is now likely to be slightly below one for cases, about one for hospital admissions and above one for hospital inpatients.

That is likely to be due to the initial impact of Northern Ireland-wide restrictions and the earlier tighter rules that were in place in the Derry City and Strabane council area.

The minister also warned against treating the contact tracing service as a "panacea".

"Members will be aware that other jurisdictions, with contact tracing systems that have been compared favourably to ours, are now in even stricter lockdown situations."

Mr Swann said protecting the health service and the wellbeing of its staff would be to the forefront of his mind as the next steps after 13 November are considered.

A workforce appeal to support the health service has had more than 9,000 expressions of interest, and almost 5,000 formal applications.

In the Republic of Ireland on Friday, six further Covid-19 related deaths were announced along with 772 new cases of the virus.

Related Topics

  • Coronavirus lockdown measures
  • NI Health
  • Robin Swann

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