23/03/2020

Covid-19: Cases Rise As More People Are Tested

Testing in Northern Ireland has resulted in 20 new cases of coronavirus, bringing totals in the region to 148.

An elderly individual yesterday became the second person to lose their life after testing positive for Covid-19.

The patient had an underlying medical condition and was receiving treatment in hospital.

The total number of people tested for the virus has reached 2692, with 148 results returned as positive.

A breakdown of the age and gender characteristics, published by the Department of Health, is available below:

• age 0 to 44 - 52 cases

• 45 to 69 - 51 cases

• 70+ - 45 cases

• female - 64 cases

• male - 84 cases

Current official advice states that anyone with a persistent cough and/or a fever should remain at home and self-isolate along with their family. These individuals do not require testing.

Justice Minister Naomi Long addressed her department's response in the NI Assembly today as questions over the prison service and burial provisions rise.

Ms Long told the Assembly Chamber: "I don't want to create unnecessary anxiety. Of course I don't. But what my officials and I do want to do, is to ensure we are as prepared as we can be for the worst case

scenario.
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"All too sadly, Mr Speaker, we have already heard from the Health Minister that the worst case scenario involves up to 15,000 people losing their lives to the virus.

"As a society, we do not like talking about death but it is a sad reality that we will unfortunately have to increasingly do so as the Coronavirus spreads."

Work is underway to prepare for the risk that normal burial arrangements aren't sufficient, according to the Minister.

Ms Long continued: "In the event that the virus hits Northern Ireland very hard, then we have seen elsewhere in the world that this gives rise to challenges which we are working to meet.

"We are working with all of those involved to enable as many people as possible to be buried or cremated in the usual way. Nonetheless, pressures on the system as a result of coronavirus are likely to mean that some families may need to wait for longer for the burial or cremation of their loved one. We have already seen restrictions on attendance at the crematorium, with services being conducted at gravesides. The wider health crisis may well mean there need to be restrictions on attendance at funerals – but that is a matter for health experts to advise on."

All prison visits are now suspended, with work in progress to find a range of measures that will allow contact to be maintained between prisoners and their families during the period of suspension.


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