13/03/2020

Nine New Covid-19 Cases Identified

Nine new cases of coronavirus have been diagnosed in Northern Ireland.

Work is underway to establish any contacts the individuals have had.

It's unclear as yet whether the cases confirm the beginning of community transmission.

A total of 321 people have been tested in recent weeks, of which 29 were positive.

The development marks the biggest rise Northern Ireland has seen to date.

It comes after the Health Minister said there is no current evidence to justify school closures.

Robin Swann said such an action "may even be counterproductive" at this stage.

Earlier today, however, deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill said local officials should follow the Republic of Ireland in closing all schools, universities and colleges.
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Minister Swann was speaking after a meeting with the UK Secretary of State for Health Matt Hancock and the local Chief Medical Officer Dr Michael McBride.

Northern Ireland is following UK government actions, where 798 people have tested positive, which have not yet amounted to the closure of schools.

Minister Swann said: "Whilst there is obviously much attention on whether schools should close, I will continue to be led by the science. At this moment in time, I have no evidence to justify school closures and indeed to do so at this stage may even be counterproductive.

"I would remind everyone that the latest advice is that anyone, even those with mild coronavirus-like symptoms – such as a new persistent cough and/or a fever - to quarantine themselves and stay at home."

Local politicians will meet with senior Irish Government representatives on Saturday to discuss an all-island approach to the situation.



(JG/CM)

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