Belfast city centre (file photo) PA Images

20 more Covid-19 deaths in Northern Ireland as six-week lockdown begins

There have been almost 1,000 new cases of the virus in the North in the last 48 hours.

NORTHERN IRELAND HAS confirmed a further 20 deaths related to Covid-19 over the past two days.

The NI Department of Health also reported an additional 998 positive cases of the virus since Christmas Eve.

In total, there have been 1,260 deaths in the North related to the virus, and almost 65,000 confirmed cases.

The figures come as a six-week lockdown begins in the North to stop the spread of the virus, with the closure of non-essential shops and services such as hairdressers and barbers.

Pubs and restaurants must carry out delivery services only, while essential retailers must close by 8pm over the next week. Businesses must also limit the number of people on their premises at any one time.

Meanwhile, indoor and outdoor gatherings are banned between 8pm and 6am.

The Stormont Executive will review the new restrictions after four weeks.

The measures were decided upon after case numbers in the North rose sharply despite two ‘circuit-breaker’ lockdowns in November and December.

Health chiefs cited low compliance with the regulations and guidance as a reason for increasing infections, with hospital admissions and death rates remaining relatively high.

Hospitals across the North were running at 105% capacity earlier this month, when images of ambulances queuing outside health centres raised alarm.

Stormont’s chief scientific adviser said Northern Ireland would have witnessed thousands of Covid-19 deaths if no action had been taken to suppress the coronavirus.

Professor Ian Young said the already over-capacity health service would have been completely swamped in January.

He warned the number of Covid-19 inpatients would have soared to between 3,000 and 4,000 by the end of the month if no action had been taken.

With reporting from Press Association.

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