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Coronavirus Northern Ireland: Further 13 deaths and 1,985 new cases reported as GCSE and A-Levels cancelled

  • Department of Health death toll rises to 1,397
  • Education Minister Peter Weir confirms A-Levels and GCSEs cancelled
  • MLAs meet to consider toughening restrictions
  • Scroll down to read Wednesday's blog

A further 13 people have died in Northern Ireland after contracting coronavirus and another 1,985 new cases have been reported, the Department of Health has confirmed.

Nine deaths occurred between 10am on January 5 and 10am on January 6, with four deaths taking place outside of this reporting period.

The death toll, according to the department, has now risen to 1,397.

Another 1,985 people tested positive, bringing the total number of infections to 83,236 since reporting began.

There are 592 Covid-19 patients in Northern Ireland hospitals, with 44 in intensive care. Thirty-seven people are currently ventilated.

Hospital occupancy is 102% and there are 132 active outbreaks of the virus in care homes.

Meanwhile, all GCSE, AS and A-level exams in Northern Ireland have been cancelled.

Education Minister Peter Weir tweeted: "I have just taken the decision to cancel all GCSE, AS & A2 exams this academic year.

"In light of the extended remote learning now in place I cannot allow our students in NI to be disadvantaged in any way from their counterparts across the UK."

Mr Weir told MLAs work will continue on the alternative awarding arrangements for pupils, with further details "to be brought forward as soon as possible".

Exams scheduled for January, February, May and June will now not go ahead. However, it has not yet clear how grades will be awarded.

It comes after transfer tests were cancelled in Northern Ireland on Tuesday. However later the Association for Quality (AQA) confirmed a single transfer test is still scheduled for February 27.

SDLP Education spokesman, Daniel McCrossan welcomed the announcement. "But this is too little too late from Minister Weir who has caused needless stress to the hundreds of children set to sit GCSE exams next week," he said.

Meanwhile, Stormont ministers are setting out details of new tougher coronavirus restrictions in a bid to halt the rapid spread of the disease throughout Northern Ireland.

Schools have been closed until the February mid-term break for all but key workers and vulnerable children. Special schools will remain open.

A stay at home order will be brought into force - with police to be given extra powers to prevent people leaving their home without a reasonable excuse. Gatherings have again been severely restricted. The new rules will be in place until at least February 6.

Here's how Wednesday unfolded:

Belfast Telegraph