NI health trust labs record no new Covid-19 cases for first time since lockdown
Northern Ireland’s health trust labs have reported no new confirmed cases of coronavirus for the first time since lockdown.
The daily update from the Department of Health on Saturday revealed there were no positive results in the 995 tests analysed in their labs through Friday.
The department confirmed that the figures marked the first day since March that no new positive tests had been reported in a 24-hour period by health trust labs across the region.
One further death of a patient who had previously tested positive for coronavirus was announced in Northern Ireland on Saturday.
The fatality brought to 545 the total number of deaths recorded by the Department of Health – a toll that primarily focuses on fatalities within hospitals.
The daily Department of Health Covid-19 dashboard records all test samples analysed in health trust labs.
The figures do not include samples taken in drive-in National Testing Centres, which are analysed through a UK-wide arrangement involving private laboratories.
Health Minister Robin Swann welcomed the zero new cases landmark.
“We continue to make significant progress in forcing the virus into retreat,” he said.
“This is due to a massive collective effort by people across Northern Ireland. It is vital that we all maintain this progress and keep following public health advice on social distancing and washing our hands.
“My thoughts are with the family and friends of the person whose death is reported today. Many lives have been cut short and we must always be mindful of the terrible toll that Covid-19 has inflicted.
“I want to see a way being found to permanently commemorate all those who have lost their lives in this pandemic.”
Chief medical officer Dr Michael McBride cautioned against complacency.
“We have undoubtedly made important strides forward and the people of Northern Ireland deserve great praise for the sacrifices they have made in our response to this virus,” he said.
“Covid-19 remains a very real threat and now is not the time to drop guard. I urge everyone to keep doing the right thing in terms of hand hygiene and social distancing. Please stay safe and save lives.”
The actual number of deaths linked to Covid-19 in the region is significantly greater than 545, as many have occurred outside a hospital setting, in care homes and domestic dwellings.
The most up-to-date overall figure, including confirmed and suspected coronavirus cases in all settings, stood at 802 for the week ending June 12.
The comparative Department of Health figure on that day was 540.
The suppression of the virus in the region has prompted Stormont ministers to quicken Northern Ireland’s exit out of lockdown.
From June 26, caravan parks, campsites and self-contained tourist accommodation will be able to reopen.
A week later on July 3, hotels, restaurants, cafes, coffee shops, pubs and bars will be able to welcome customers back.
Church services are set to resume on June 29 while a provisional date for hair salons, barbers and nail bars to reopen has been set for July 6.
Guidance advising people in high-risk categories to shield indoors is to be paused at the end of July.
Stormont ministers have also announced plans for childcare services to start to look after more children over the summer.
They are also seeking to maximise the number of children who can return to school on a full-time basis in the autumn by reducing the social distancing measure for pupils from two to one metres.