Stormont health minister receives online threats

A man has been arrested over online sectarian threats made against Stormont health minister Robin Swann.

Police are investigating “offensive” comments posted on social media on Friday.

Mr Swann has been leading the battle against coronavirus and five million items of personal protective equipment arrived in Northern Ireland on Monday.

Medics have been calling for extra supplies after an expected joint order with the Republic of Ireland from China fell through due to international competition.

A 26-year-old was detained in the Ballymena, Co Antrim, area on Sunday on suspicion of improper use of telecommunications causing anxiety and later released on police bail pending further inquiries.

A Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) statement said: “The investigation is ongoing.”

The force added: “Police are investigating after threatening and offensive comments were made on a social media platform on Friday 03 April.”

Mr Swann is the devolved minister leading the official response to Covid-19.

He is the former leader of the Ulster Unionists and represents North Antrim in the Stormont Assembly.

UUP leader Steve Aiken said: “It is utterly despicable that threats that were blatantly intimidating and sectarian were made against our exceptionally hard-working and dedicated health minister.”

He said he was calling on all Stormont Executive ministers to come out and condemn it.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said: “Robin Swann is working night and day to reduce the impact of coronavirus on our communities.

“The vile sectarian abuse and threats that he and his family have been subjected to are disgusting and those responsible must be held accountable.”

Nurses have warned that without protective equipment they will not be able to treat patients.

A surge in cases due to the numbers infected before lockdown was imposed is due to reach its peak over the next fortnight.

A number of facilities have been re-purposed as testing or treatment centres and pressure is mounting on hospital intensive care units.

Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis confirmed on Twitter that the extra protective supplies had arrived in Northern Ireland.

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