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Coronavirus Northern Ireland: Finance Minister Murphy announces £35m region-wide scheme for businesses hit by new restrictions

  • Department of Health Covid death toll rises to 606
  • Cases since outbreak now 23,878
  • New support scheme for NI businesses, which are forced to close, will open on Monday
  • Hotels can only operate on a restricted basis
  • Third of infections in hospitality sector and school run blamed for transmission
  • NI could be facing testing capacity “gap” in the winter due to soaring demand
  • Scroll down to read Thursday's updates

Finance Minister Conor Murphy has announced that a scheme set up for businesses impacted Covid-19 regulations in the Derry City and Strabane council area is to be extended to the rest of the Northern Ireland.

The scheme agreed by the executive will double the original payment rates, with small businesses receiving £1,600, medium businesses £2,400 and larger firms £3,200 for every two weeks they are closed. It is estimated to cost £35m for four weeks.

"This new scheme will apply to all council areas and for many businesses payments will be made promptly using information held by Land and Property Services," Mr Murphy said.

“I know there are many businesses who haven’t benefited from previous support schemes. I have asked Executive colleagues to urgently bring forward proposals for sectors they have responsibility for.”

From November 1, eligible businesses will also be able to apply to see the UK Government pay two thirds of each employees’ salary (or 67%), up to a maximum of £2,100 a month. The UK-wide job support scheme replaces the furlough scheme.

First Minister Arlene Foster also clarified some of the restrictions which will come into force on Friday at 6pm, including:

  • Hotels can remain open on a restricted basis for current residents and key workers, however bars in hotels must close
  • Wakes are not to be held, however remains can be brought home under restrictions

  • Private pre-schools and daycare centres can remain open

  • Self-catering and rented holiday homes can also remain open

We stand at a very serious moment for Northern Ireland and we are depending on every single person, every single day to do the right thing. Arlene Foster

The news comes after it was confirmed that a further four people in Northern Ireland have died after testing positive for Covid-19 and 763 new cases of the virus have been reported.

It brings the death toll in the region to 606 and the total number of cases diagnosed since the outbreak to 23,878. Some 6,394 have tested positive in the last seven days.

Of the four fatalities, two were men, one aged between 40 and 59 and the other between 60 and 79, who died in hospital in Mid Ulster on Wednesday. The two other deaths were a woman aged 80 and over who died in hospital in Antrim and Newtownabbey on Thursday and a man aged between 60 and 79 who died in hospital in Belfast, also on Thursday.

There are currently 201 Covid patients in hospitals across Northern Ireland, with 24 patients in intensive care and 17 requiring ventilation. Just a month ago there were three Covid patients in intensive care, with two requiring ventilation.

A total of 64 care homes are dealing with outbreaks of coronavirus.

Here's how Thursday unfolded:

Belfast Telegraph