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Coronavirus: Ten further NI Covid-related deaths

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Ten more people in Northern Ireland have died after contracting coronavirus, taking the Department of Health's total to 933.

Six of those deaths occurred in the past 24 hours, while four of the deaths happened before this period.

Another 342 people have tested positive for the virus, taking the overall number of confirmed cases to 49,784.

The figures come on a weekend when a number of businesses reopened ahead of a two-week lockdown from 27 November.

As of Sunday, there were 425 people in hospital, of those 40 people are in intensive care, 28 are on ventilation.

Belfast city centre was busy on Sunday as shoppers stocked up for Christmas, ahead of the temporary closure of all non-essential shops on Friday.

Meanwhile, there has been some "good progress" in plans to design a single set of coronavirus rules for Christmas that would apply across the UK.

image copyrightPacemaker
image captionFootfall was heavy in parts of Belfast city centre on Sunday, days ahead of a two-week lockdown

'Additional bubbling'

Northern Ireland's first and deputy first ministers joined talks with the first ministers of Scotland and Wales, and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove on Saturday to discuss "shared arrangements".

However they agreed it is import to allow families and friends to meet "in a careful and limited way".

The ministers said they "endorsed a shared objective of facilitating some limited additional household bubbling for a small number of days".

"In respect of Northern Ireland, ministers also recognised that people will want to see family and friends across the island of Ireland, and this is the subject of discussions with the Irish government, the statement added.

No Christmas 'free for all'

The Republic of Ireland is now a month in to its six-week lockdown, where people have been living under the highest level of Covid restrictions and must avoid all unnecessary travel.

On Sunday, one further coronavirus-related death was reported by the Irish Department of Health and another 318 people tested positive for the virus.

A junior minister in the Irish Department of Agriculture told Irish broadcaster RTÉ there will not be a free-for-all two-week holiday at Christmas.

Senator Pippa Hackett said it was "disappointing" that infection rates had not reduced by as much as the government had anticipated when it imposed the lockdown on 21 October.

Ms Hackett said although the government wants people to have a "meaningful Christmas" where they can celebrate together, ultimately ministers will have to make decisions based on the statistics and advice from health officials.

She urged the public to help stop the spread of infection before the calls are made, saying: "We have a week or so now to really buckle down and do what we've been asked to do."

Northern Ireland's new lockdown restrictions have been criticised by some businesses, but First Minister Arlene Foster has defended the move.

The DUP leader denied that her party had performed a U-turn by agreeing to tighter Covid-19 restrictions one week after voting against measures proposed to the Stormont Executive.

On Sunday, Ulster Unionist MLA Doug Beattie accused executive ministers of "sniping at each other and trying to politically point score".

'Dither and delay'

Speaking on BBC One NI's Sunday Politics Show, Mr Beattie said ministers need to work together.

"Where there's a failing in one department within the executive, the others need to rally around and help support them to get it fixed, as opposed to pointing a finger at somebody else to detract attention away," he said.

image captionUlster Unionist MLA Doug Beattie said the executive need to start 'working as one'

Meanwhile, SDLP MLA Matthew O'Toole criticised the Department of Enterprise and the Department of Finance, saying there was too much "dither and delay" in terms of getting financial support to businesses.

"There's a significant amount of financial resource sitting in the executive coffers - around half a billion is there to be spent on exactly this," he said.

"We've seen a lot of dither and delay in getting the schemes up and running... those are taking too long to get started and get the money out the door.

He said the two departments need to "come together and deliver as soon as possible".

On Friday, the government statistics agency Nisra said it had recorded a rise in the weekly number of Covid-19-related deaths for the sixth week in a row.

Nisra said 96 deaths were registered in the week up to Friday 13 November, with its overall total standing at 1,201.

Nisra's figures are based on mentions of the virus on death certificates, while the Department of Health statistics are based on a positive test result having been recorded.

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