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Coronavirus: Foster warns of difficult days to come as NI death toll reaches 48


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First Minister Arlene Foster

First Minister Arlene Foster

Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press E

First Minister Arlene Foster

First Minister Arlene Foster warned that more families would feel pain as another 12 people died in Northern Ireland from coronavirus.

The death toll here has now reached 48, the Public Health Agency said.

Yesterday's increase was the highest yet, and double the six deaths announced here on Thursday.

Forty-eight patients are also in intensive care.

The UK death toll surged by 684 yesterday, passing 3,600 fatalities.

And in the Irish Republic, 22 more deaths were announced last night, bringing the total there to 120.

Mrs Foster warned of more difficult days ahead.

She said: "The pandemic is bigger than all of us, it's bigger than any national identity or political philosophy and it is a challenge to every single human being.

"Whilst the weeks ahead will be difficult and extremely painful, we have to say for families in Northern Ireland, we have to together get through this."

Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill said it was an "unprecedented crisis".

"Life as we know has changed, everything we do, we take for granted, has changed, people are dying," she said.

"Twelve people here have lost their lives since yesterday, that's the biggest number of fatalities in any day we have witnessed in the north since this pandemic began, and sadly many, many more will also lose their lives."

Yesterday the Public Health Agency reported 130 new positive cases of Covid-19 in Northern Ireland, bringing the total number of confirmed cases here to 904.

However, experts have warned that the true number here is likely to be significantly higher.

Chief Medical Officer Michael McBride said last week that he believed "many thousands" of people here have the virus.

And earlier this week Dr Connor Bamford, a virologist based at Queen's University, estimated that the number of cases could have passed 50,000 already.

The Health and Social Care Board said 338 patients were in hospital with confirmed or suspected Covid-19 as of Thursday, including 48 in intensive care.

Meanwhile, the latest figures from Ireland's HSE showed another 424 cases of coronavirus had been diagnosed in the Irish Republic, bringing the number of confirmed cases to 4,273.

Of the 22 further deaths announced last night, half were male and half female.

The virus has hit the east of the country hardest.

The median age of those admitted to hospital intensive care units was 63.

In England, meanwhile, the Department of Health confirmed 684 more people have died in hospital after testing positive for coronavirus, bringing the total deaths in the UK to 3,605 as of 5pm on Thursday.

As of 9am yesterday, a total of 173,784 people had been tested for coronavirus, of whom 38,168 tested positive.

Yesterday Health Secretary Matt Hancock described having coronavirus as a "pretty unpleasant experience" as he promised further action on testing.

He said he has now fully recovered from the "nasty" illness, which saw him suffer sleepless nights and an "incredibly" sore throat, as well as losing half a stone in weight.

"It was a pretty unpleasant experience, I went downhill on Thursday last week and for a couple of nights it was very hard to sleep, incredibly painful throat, it was like having glass in my throat," he said.

Yesterday, two NHS colleagues - Areema Nasreen and Aimee O'Rourke - were named among those health workers who have died from the virus.

Mr Hancock said: "I pay tribute to the NHS staff who've died serving the NHS, serving the nation.

"It shows the incredible bravery of every member of the NHS who goes into work knowing that these dangers are there.

He added: "I think it is a testament to every doctor and nurse and paramedic and other health professional who is working in the NHS in these difficult times.

"And I think the whole nation is grateful."

Mother-of-three Ms Nasreen, who worked at the Walsall Manor Hospital near Birmingham, was described as "the most loveliest, genuine person you could ever meet".

And Ms O'Rourke, also a mother-of-three, who worked at the Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother Hospital in Margate, Kent, was described by friends as a nurse who "gave her life to make sure other people survived" during the coronavirus outbreak.

Ruth May, chief nursing officer for England, said: "I'm hugely grateful to the tens of thousands of nurses, doctors, health and social care workers that day in, day out are working around the clock."

Belfast Telegraph