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234 new cases of Covid-19 confirmed in Northern Ireland as death toll reaches 2,000

The latest figures were confirmed by the Northern Ireland Department of Health this afternoon.

File photo. Belfast city centre.
File photo. Belfast city centre.
Image: PA Images

A FURTHER 234 new cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed in Northern Ireland.

In its daily update, the NI Department of Health said that a further four people with Covid-19 have died, bringing the death toll to 2,000.

The latest figures bring the number of deaths on the island of Ireland since the start of the pandemic to almost 6,000.

Case numbers have declined significantly in Northern Ireland in recent weeks. It has been under strict lockdown restrictions since St Stephen’s Day.

Last night, there were 477 patients in Northern Irish hospitals with Covid-19, down from 655 a week ago. There are 59 patients with Covid-19 in an intensive care unit.

Over 400,000 vaccine doses have been administered in Northern Ireland so far, with the vast majority of these being first doses.

The Stormont Executive is set to discuss the re-opening of schools later this week. 

Most schools have been closed since before the Christmas break as part of the lockdown.

Special schools have remained open and mainstream schools are open for the children of key workers.

Speaking earlier today, NI Public Health Agency official Dr Joanne McClean said that the risk of Covid-19 transmission is higher at school gates than in the classroom. 

Schools are not the major source of transmission … the risk for the staff in the classroom is not higher than other workforces and part of that is due to the excellent measures that schools have put in place,” she told the BBC’s Stephen Nolan Show.

“Schools have done a huge amount, principals have worked themselves into the ground from September onwards to introduce ways of working in schools that are completely new to them.

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But she added that children and staff “cannot be magicked” into school classrooms.

“There are two bits to this, there’s the bit that goes on in the classroom that schools can control … and then there is the bit that goes on outside the gates,” she said.

Dr McClean said schools being open adds an estimated 0.3-0.6 to the reproduction number, or R value, of the virus.

“Every single contact matters, where people meet, coronavirus has the opportunity to spread and this is why it is so difficult for the Executive, they have to strike a balance between keeping every single one of our interactions to a minimum but also allowing society to function is some way,” she said.

“Overall the message for every single one of us still is every single contact matters, keep your contacts as low as possible, stay at home and only have contact with other people when you really have to.”

With reporting from PA

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Sean Murray

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