Health Minister Robin Swann has revealed that testing for Covid-19 will be expanded to frontline workers in the private sector after it was announced that the number of deaths linked to the virus jumped to 250.
Mr Swann was speaking alongside Northern Ireland’s Chief Medical Officer Dr Michael McBride at Wednesday's Covid-19 briefing at Stormont Castle.
Earlier, the Department of Health outlined that eight deaths occurred in hospitals on Tuesday and that a further 26 deaths that had been previously unreported had now been added to the official record.
North Antrim MLA Mr Swann stated that he understood that the extra 26 deaths that had previously gone unreported will “cause some alarm” but said that came down to the “timeline” of the Northern Ireland Statistical Research Agency’s report.
He added that the report of the extra deaths would always have been released to the public.
“These daily figures are compiled for surveillance purposes to help us track the virus and keep the public as informed as is possible but it’s always important to remember that each of these numbers is an individual, a family bereaved and a life lost,” said Mr Swann.
“We have never walked these paths before and sadly there will be more deaths in the days and weeks ahead.
“Tackling Covid-19 was never going to be easy and there was never going to be a quick fix but, cautiously, I do believe we are beginning to see an improvement.
“So whilst our priority must remain on those who are sick now, as well as supporting the staff who are so heroically looking after them, we must also look to how we respond to the virus in the days and weeks ahead.”
Mr Swann outlined that employees in supermarkets, the telecom industry and the Royal Mail will all now be able to be tested for coronavirus if they think they are eligible as part of the expansion into testing.
The Health Minister also said that he sees no reason why people cannot visit cemeteries and feels the Executive should change the law to reopen the sites.
“We have to realise the mental challenge that we’re putting on many individuals by asking them to remain in lockdown, some will receive solace and support by visiting the graves of loved ones,” he continued.
“It is something I hope the Executive can come to a reasonable position on where we can open up cemeteries in a managed way.”