Projected Covid-19 deaths in NI fall significantly due to lockdown success

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The number of projected deaths from coronavirus in Northern Ireland has been slashed due to the success of social distancing measures, the health minister has said.

At one stage, a worst-case scenario predicated on the virus being able to transmit freely warned that 15,000 could die in the region.

On Monday, Stormont health chiefs said that potential toll had been revised down to 1,500 during the first 20 weeks of the outbreak.

“It provides a clear indication that social distancing is working.

“It provides encouragement to everyone who is working hard to do the right thing.”

Mr Swann said 13 more people had died overnight after testing positive for Covid-19.

Forty patients were in intensive care units earlier on Monday and hospitals had recorded 88 Covid-19 admissions on Sunday.

Bars, restaurants and most businesses closed last month as part of a lockdown aimed at inhibiting the spread of the virus.

Police have issued fines to those found to be in breach of strict criteria for leaving their homes.

“Our health service has not been overwhelmed.”

Health workers have received millions of items of personal protective equipment.

Care homes and care in the community providers received 1.9 million items last week and another 1.7 million the week before, an NHS official said during the daily briefing at Stormont.

Mr Swann warned against thinking the battle against the infection was over and said ministers had not set a time frame on any exit strategy from the lockdown.

Dr McBride added: “Complacency is our greatest enemy.

“It would be premature to say we are through the worst of this.

“Any relaxation of those social distancing measures or any inability of the public to stick with this, we will rapidly see reemergence of this virus and see our health service come under very significant pressure.”

Michael McBride
Michael McBride (Kelvin Boyes/Press Eye/PA)

“This virus is going nowhere, this virus is with us to stay, and social distancing measures of some form or other are going to be with us for a significant period of time,” he said.

“And we will have to adjust to a new normal, as the minister has said, because it will not be a return to life as we remember before Covid-19 for some many, many months.

“We are likely to have some form of social distancing for quite some time to come and we are not at this stage at a point where it is wise or prudent to relax the measures that we currently have in place.”

Mr Swann said he did not have any regrets on when Northern Ireland locked down.

He said the region took action around 10-14 days earlier than some countries, in terms of the relative spread of the disease within the population.

“So it’s not a matter of regret where we were, I think we were actually in quite a good place when we did take the decision to lock down,” he said.

Robin Swann
Robin Swann (Kelvin Boyes/Press Eye/PA)

“The rate of new cases and tragically also the cases of deaths in Northern Ireland is very different from the rest of the United Kingdom,” he said.

“That would suggest that the application of the measures happened at an earlier point in time. That has been to the benefit of the population in Northern Ireland, and indeed has ensured our health service has not been overwhelmed.

“Northern Ireland, the path of the epidemic is very similar, and indeed probably a little bit lower than that even in the Republic of Ireland.”

He said Northern Ireland remained on a “knife edge”, but added: “At this point in time the virus is having a less of an impact than it might have otherwise had based on our modelling on the reasonable worst-case scenario as a result of the timeliness of the introduction of the measures here in Northern Ireland.”

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