Coronavirus: Covid-19 related death toll in NI passes 1,000

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Fifteen further coronavirus-related deaths have been recorded in Northern Ireland bringing the Department of Health's recorded total to 1,011.

Seven of the deaths occurred within the current reporting period, with eight outside it.

Health Minister Robin Swann said Tuesday's death toll was a "sad milestone" for Northern Ireland.

He also says the health service is "primed" and "ready" to deliver a vaccination safely and systematically.

Mr Swann said an effective vaccine was the biggest breakthrough since the pandemic began but that delivery will not be fast.

"There is no way around this and there is no quick fix," he said.

"We expect it to take many months before the vaccination programme is complete and we need to recognise that we are not through this yet."

Health service staff will begin receiving a vaccine later this month.

Patricia Donnelly, head of the Covid-19 vaccine programme, says Northern Ireland is "good to go" from 14 December, pending the necessary approval of vaccines.

The department's daily figure is based on a positive test result having been recorded in the previous 28 days.

A further 391 people tested positive for the virus in the past 24 hours.

Mr Swann said the new death toll was another "harsh reminder" of the threat of coronavirus and said people should not "delude themselves" by thinking otherwise.

"We always have to remember that we are not talking about statistics but much-loved people who are desperately missed.

"No-one should underestimate the virus, or delude themselves that it could never affect them."

He said a "small and vociferous minority" continued to try and play down its risk.

Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill and First Minister Arlene Foster met Mr Swann on Tuesday, ahead of an executive meeting on Thursday.

Ms O'Neill said they were working through detail of plans for the Christmas period and this needed to include plans for visiting arrangements at care homes.

"It won't be a normal Christmas and our guiding principle should be what is the advice of health officials," she added.

People from three households in Northern Ireland will be allowed to meet indoors for five days over the Christmas period.

'Thing of the past'

NI's chief medical officer says surpassing a death toll of 1,000 is a "grim reminder" that Covid-19 is a "very serious infection".

Although Dr Michael Bride described the prospect of a vaccine as "encouraging", he also warned members of the public not to become complacent.

"That will not begin to do the heavy lifting until the spring," he said.

"It is only when we have those who are extremely clinically vulnerable, those older people vaccinated in sufficient numbers, that we will see the reduction on pressures on our health service, reduction in deaths and that we can begin to, with some confidence, look back to restrictions as increasingly a thing of the past.

"But, that is not today, that is not tomorrow, not next month."

On Tuesday Northern Ireland hospitals were at 100% occupancy, with 419 inpatients with Covid-19, of whom 38 are in ICU, according to the Department of Health.

There have been 52, 856 positive cases in Northern Ireland since the pandemic began, with 2,523 people testing positive in the last seven days.

Tougher lockdown measures came into force across Northern Ireland on Friday 27 November, which are set to expire on 11 December.

In the Republic of Ireland, another 18 Covid-19 related deaths have been reported, bringing the death toll to 2,069, according to the Irish Department of Health.

A further 269 new cases of Covid-19 were also recorded in the country, bringing the total number to 72,798.

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