O’Neill self-isolating after family member tests positive for Covid-19

Northern Ireland’s Deputy First Minister is self-isolating after a family member tested positive for Covid-19.

Michelle O’Neill, who is being tested herself, will need to restrict her movements for two weeks and work remotely from her Co Tyrone home.

The development would only have potential self-isolating consequences for Ms O’Neill’s Stormont colleagues if the Sinn Fein vice president tests positive for the virus.

It comes as the Stormont Executive continues to grapple with high infection rates across the region, with the Derry and Strabane Council districts one of the worst hit areas in the UK and Ireland.

Coronavirus – Thu Oct 8, 2020
Coronavirus – Thu Oct 8, 2020

On Thursday, ministers moved to increase fines for non-compliance with Covid-19 regulations.

The executive also extended the number of places where the wearing of face coverings will be compulsory.

However, the powersharing administration stopped short of introducing any new restrictions on social gatherings or the hospitality industry.

A Sinn Fein spokesman said: “Joint head of government Michelle O’Neill has confirmed that she is being tested for coronavirus and is self-isolating after contact with a family member who has tested positive for Covid-19.

“Michelle will continue to follow the public health advice and carry out her duties in Government remotely.”

Londonderry has one of the highest infection rates in the UK and Ireland
Londonderry has one of the highest infection rates in the UK and Ireland

As of Thursday, some 4,674 new cases of the virus had been confirmed in the region over a seven-day period. There were 120 people with Covid-19 being treated in hospital, 15 of whom are in intensive care, and 11 on ventilators.

Ministers continue to lobby the UK Government for assurances that further financial support will be forthcoming from the Treasury if Northern Ireland is forced to enter another lockdown.

Ireland’s foreign affairs minister Simon Coveney said he raised the issue of funding with Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis during a meeting at Hillsborough Castle on Thursday afternoon.

Speaking on Friday morning, Mr Coveney said Mr Lewis assured him money was available to Stormont.

However, Mr Coveney did not clarify if the Northern Ireland Secretary was referring to new money or already announced initiatives

“He (Brandon Lewis) assures me that finance is already available to the Executive in Northern Ireland and that finance from London shouldn’t be an obstacle to Northern Ireland doing what it needs to do to manage the spread of Covid,” Mr Coveney told RTE.