Coronavirus: 1,299 new cases in North as hospital numbers rival Republic’s

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There have been 1,299 new Covid-19 cases in Northern Ireland in the last 24-hour reporting period, the region's Department of Health has announced.

Some 6,708 new positive cases have been notified in the region in the last seven days.

There were two deaths reported on Friday, taking the toll recorded by the department to 608.

There are 213 patients with Covid-19 being treated in hospital in Northern Ireland, with 26 in intensive care.

In the Republic, 244 people with Covid-19 are being treated in hospitals as of this morning, with 29 in intensive care as of last night.

It comes as a Stormont Minister has expressed “grave reservations” about several of Northern Ireland’s latest coronavirus restrictions.

DUP minister Edwin Poots claimed he and party colleagues on the powersharing executive opposed many of the measures but were out-numbered by other ministers who favoured a more robust approach.

Mr Poots asked why traffic and human interactions at schools gates could not have been better managed, rather than closing schools.

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The minister said he would also have preferred more targeted localised restrictions in areas that have the worst infection rates, rather than blanket steps covering the whole region.

“We need to be smarter on how we tackle Covid,” he told BBC Radio Ulster’s Talkback programme.

Further lockdowns

Mr Poots claimed chief medical officer Dr Michael McBride and chief scientific adviser Professor Ian Young have indicated to ministers that two more lockdowns would be required over the winter months.

“If the proposal is, and I believe that there is suggestion that there’s at least another two lockdowns over the winter, then I think that’s hugely damaging for the economy, for people’s mental health and well-being and the consequences of it – probably tens of thousands of people on the dole and that’s not good for the health of Northern Ireland,” he said.

The minister said the executive needed to take a “more measured approach”.

“We can’t live in an eternal lockdown, people need to live their lives,” he said.

I’ve asked the chief medical officer and the chief scientist the question and they’ve admitted to me privately what the problem is but they haven’t said it publicly.

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Mr Poots also claimed that Dr McBride and Prof Young had indicated to him privately what lay behind the surge in cases in Northern Ireland but had not made that information public.

“I’ve asked the chief medical officer and the chief scientist the question and they’ve admitted to me privately what the problem is but they haven’t said it publicly,” he told Talkback.

Mr Poots singled out issues around sport and, in particular, post-match celebrations. He claimed some people were “flagrantly breaking the rules” over the summer months.

The minister claimed Dr McBride had privately identified “sport” and “parties after particular events” as problem areas.

Edwin Poots added: “There is certainly an issue around sport. I can think of one event where people went to a bar after winning a particular cup, passed the cup around the bar full of drink and most of them actually caught Covid.

“Those types of behaviours are entirely unacceptable in a pandemic.”

Mr Poots was asked whether he was referring to the GAA.

“I’m not picking on one organisation, but there are certainly those who have engaged in very poor behaviour over the course of the summer months, which has helped exacerbate this problem,” he replied.

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