The Health Minister will recommend further restrictions to the Northern Ireland Executive tomorrow, saying it is likely they will be imposed again before Christmas.
He also said work is underway to facilitate the mass testing of students in the UK, so they will be able to return home and spend Christmas with their families.
Minister Robin Swann made the comments at a press conference today where he was joined by Chief Medical Officer Dr Michael McBride and Chief Scientific Advisor Professor Ian Young.
He said: “We still need to do the basics in the days, weeks and months ahead and that will inevitably mean a level of restrictions. Because you actions today will have an influence on where we will be in two weeks time.”
It came as hospitality and close contact businesses prepare to reopen on Friday following a five week circuit breaker lockdown.
The Department of Health reported 11 further Covid-19 deaths today, with nine taken place in the previous 24 hours. The Northern Ireland death toll from the virus is now 889.
There were also 518 new positive cases of the virus in the past day and 3,535 in the past seven days.
These are the main points from today’s press conference:
1. New restrictions are likely to be imposed before Christmas.
The Health Minister said he will be recommending new restrictions and interventions to the Executive tomorrow and warned that the actions of the public will influence whether any are imposed in two weeks time.
He said: “Robin Swann: “I think we have been clear there will be a need for more restrictions between now and Christmas if we are to get our Health Service through the winter pressures it always faces and is especially facing at this time due to the large number of inpatients that we currently have before we are even through this set of restrictions.
2. Mass testing to get NI students home for Christmas
Chief Medical Officer Dr Michael McBride said work is being carried out on a pilot scheme of mass testing in order to make sure that Northern Irish students in the UK will be able to return home for Christmas.
He said: “We are also looking at mass testing of students to enable everyone to come home for Christmas.
“However testing on its own or vaccines will not deliver us this Christmas and festive period, testing is not a panacea, testing will reduce your risk and may give you the green light to go home to your family, but your actions and what you do will ensure you keep others safe, keep yourself safe, your family safe or deliver and unwelcome Christmas present.”
3. Mass testing scheme being looked at for all of NI
The Health Minister said he has been speaking with Health Secretary Matt Hancock about the possibility of mass testing in Northern Ireland, similar to the project carried out in Liverpool.
How Chief Scientific Advisor Ian Young warned that it would only be successful if 90 per cent of the population were tested and tested repeatedly.
4. Health Minister ‘not content’ with Executive decision last week
The Health Minister has said he was “not content” with the decision made by the Executive last week, but felt he had not choice but to vote for it because it would have been better than no restrictions at all.
5. Vaccine news brings prospect of hope next year
The news of possible Covid-19 vaccines have brought a sense of hope to the CMO Dr McBride, who said we could be in a “different place” by the spring or summer. However he said it could be the end of the year or following year due to the process of the vaccine being rolled out.
6. Current restrictions not having enough of an impact
Dr McBride said that the current restrictions are bringing down infection rates, but they are not having a sufficient enough impact.
He said: “While treatments have improved it is a terrible reality that we will see more deaths from Covid in our hospitals as we see people admitted into hospital care and into intensive care.
“The current restrictions are having an impact and are slowing the rate of infection, however not enough nor sufficient to take us through the challenges of the next few months.”
7. New Nightingale Facility to open at Whiteabbey Hospital
This Friday a new Nightingale Facility will open at Whiteabbey Hospital, which will be used to provide step down care for Covid-19 patients as they leave hospital and return home.
Minister Swann praised the nurse-led facility as ground breaking.
-- to www.belfastlive.co.uk