Northern Ireland coronavirus deaths rise by 16

The number of coronavirus deaths in Northern Ireland has risen by 16 to 294.

Another 104 positive tests have been disclosed, bringing the total number of cases to 3,226, Stormont’s health department said.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) chief constable has been on patrol with officers in Magherafelt, County Londonderry, as people continue to observe social distancing restrictions.

Simon Byrne said he had received a positive response from members of the public and the vast majority were observing curbs on movement designed to limit the infection’s spread.

Cemeteries are to reopen in Northern Ireland on a controlled basis, First Minister Arlene Foster said.

Simon Byrne has been on patrol with officers (Kelvin Boyes/Press Eye/PA)

Graveyards were closed in March when coronavirus lockdown measures were announced.

Some of Belfast’s cemeteries are to reopen from Sunday.

Stormont’s ministerial Executive has also agreed to amend the regulations to clarify the circumstances in which a person can leave the house to exercise, including reasonable travel to exercise.

A drive to a safe space or facility would be permitted.

Taking a long drive to get to a beach or resort where numbers of people may gather is unlikely to be regarded as reasonable, even for exercise.

Contact tracing of cases of infection is being rolled out across Northern Ireland next week.

The number of tests conducted is also being ramped up.

Mrs Foster cautioned against easing lockdown restrictions too quickly. The matter is due to be reviewed again next month.

A third of coronavirus-related deaths are happening in care homes, figures indicated.

The Northern Ireland Statistical and Research Agency (Nisra) recorded 276 deaths involving Covid-19 up to April 17.

Of these, 60.1% occurred in hospitals, 33.7% in care homes, 5.1% at private addresses and 1.1% at hospices.

The figures are unrelated to the Public Health Agency’s daily total. They measure the number of death certificates where Covid-19 was mentioned as a suspected cause.

Inclusion in the PHA’s tally of deaths requires a positive test for the infection.

Those showing symptoms and key workers are being prioritised for testing, and unions have been negotiating the use of NHS workers in private care homes.

Ministers said they were listening to the sector.

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