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Covid-19: Three members of one NI family die in two weeks

By Marie-Louise Connolly & Lesley Anne McKeown
BBC News NI Health Team

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Three members of one family in Northern Ireland have died with Covid-19 in the past two weeks, the BBC has learned.

They include a man in his early 50s, who worked for the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust.

Staff at the trust have paid tribute to him, saying he was a dedicated member of the health service.

Belfast Trust senior manager Dr Paul Glover said his colleague, who died on Wednesday, was "a very valued member of staff".

"I'd like to offer my condolences to the family one of our members of staff who sadly passed away with Covid-19 today.

"I am sure all of his colleagues and those who have worked with him will feel this right at this moment in time."

'Unimaginable'

SDLP MLA Dolores Kelly also offered condolences to the family of those who died.

"It is just unimaginable," she told BBC Radio Ulster's Evening Extra programme.

"I cannot begin to imagine how the surviving members of the family come to terms with it and I do hope and pray that they get the help and support that they need."

Mrs Kelly appealed to the executive to "take account of the families who are suffering, who have suffered, those that are in hospital and the staff who are trying their best to actually keep people safe and to save their lives".

Eight further deaths

News of the health care worker's death comes as hospitals across Northern Ireland continue to report pressures.

The Department of Health in Northern Ireland reported eight further coronavirus-related deaths on Wednesday, with 791 more people testing positive for the virus.

The number of hospital inpatients with the virus has increased from 420 to 441.

In the Republic of Ireland, there have been two Covid-19 related deaths and 362 new cases of the disease reported in the past 24 hours.

It brings the total number of deaths there to 1,965.

Forty-seven men and women are in ICU in Northern Ireland and 35 of them are on a ventilator.

Dr Glover, who specialises in critical care, said there must be a "sustained and ongoing" decrease in community transmission rates before any relaxation of restrictions is considered.

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"Our healthcare system is very much under pressure and is being stretched at this moment," he said.

"What we absolutely need is a sustained and ongoing decrease in transmission rates to stop the hospitals being overwhelmed, to take the pressure off staff and to allow us to be able to treat other conditions.

"We are not at the stage yet where community transmission is at such a low level as is safe to release restrictions."

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Dr Glover added that "everyone has a role to play" to ensure that Covid-19 numbers are "stamped down" and "kept down".

"This is not just about government guidelines. It's also about public behaviours," he said.

Health unions are also asking why restrictions would be relaxed, given the number of deaths in recent weeks.

Hospitals 'nearly overwhelmed'

Chair of the BMA in Northern Ireland, Dr Tom Black, said: "You need restrictions to reduce the transmission of the infection, to reduce the demands on hospitals."

Dr Black said demands on NI hospitals "are nearly overwhelming hospital services".

Meanwhile, cases in care homes have also increased, with 143 facilities dealing with outbreaks - over 100 more than this time last month.

Robin Swann told MLAs that staff, through no fault of their own, were carrying the virus - another reason, he said, for maintaining restrictions.

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