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

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 initial stages of the outbreak.

Stormont Health Minister Robin Swann said: “This is a significant revision on the previous modelling. This is not a prediction or a forecast.

“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.

Northern Ireland’s chief medical officer Dr Michael McBride said: “The actions we have taken over the last number of weeks is making a real difference.

“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.”