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Coronavirus Northern Ireland updates: Each month in lockdown 'akin to a large recession', says Economy Minister Diane Dodds

  • Over 700 deaths linked to the virus in NI - over half of whom were care home residents -according to NISRA
  • Number of weekly Covid-19 deaths in NI falls for the fourth week in a row
  • Businesses will start paying National Insurance and tax contributions for furloughed staff in August, ramping up to 10% of furloughed wages in September and 20% in October, Chancellor says
  • Scroll down to follow today's live blog

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Economy Minister Diane Dodds during the daily media broadcast in the Long Gallery at Parliament Buildings, Stormont on Friday. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

Economy Minister Diane Dodds during the daily media broadcast in the Long Gallery at Parliament Buildings, Stormont on Friday. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press E

Economy Minister Diane Dodds during the daily media broadcast in the Long Gallery at Parliament Buildings, Stormont on Friday. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

Economy Minister Diane Dodds has said each month in lockdown has been "akin to a large recession" for Northern Ireland.

Speaking at the Executive's daily Covid-19 press conference, she said: "The longer Northern Ireland is unable to do business and people are kept away from work, the greater the risk of long-term damage."

She said £280m in grants has been given to small businesses across Northern Ireland, while there have been 2,000 applications to the hardship fund for businesses.

It's along with other measures such as rates relief that has been afforded to 40,000 eligible businesses.

The minister acknowledged that as frustrating lockdown has been for many, "progress will be gradual and in stages."

It comes as messaging around lockdown from the Executive is now focused on "stay safe, save lives" and "work safe, save lives".

Mrs Dodds acknowledged the frustration felt by those in the hospitality sector, after hoteliers raised concerns following Thursday's press conference in which they were told they could accept advance bookings without a reopening date from the Executive.

"I understand the need for an indicative date for when they can open. I have raised my concerns that our hotels are at a disadvantage compared to their competitors in the Republic of Ireland and Great Britain," she said, adding that an update will be given early next week.

Meanwhile, in Westminster, the Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced self-employed workers will be eligible for a second and final coronavirus grant and confirmed that employers must start paying towards the wages of furloughed staff from August.

Mr Sunak said the schemes had been a "lifeline" for millions of people and businesses, but that as the country comes through the "other side" of the Covid-19 crisis, it was time to adjust them to "ensure those who are able to work can do so".

Earlier, the Department of Health announced that three further people in Northern Ireland have died after testing positive for Covid-19.

One of the deaths occurred in the 24 hours up to 10am on Friday, while the other two were previously unreported.

It brings the death toll to 518 of those that had tested positive for the virus.

For the first time the data shows 305 deaths were in a hospital, while 184 took place in a care home. Another 32 were either in the community or unknown.

There were also 1,346 tests carried out on 1,083 individuals with 17 returning positive. Seven people remain in intensive care while 71 care homes are dealing with an outbreak and another 37 are suspected as having a case.

Meanwhile, the latest Northern Ireland Statistic and Research Agency figures estimate there have already been over 700 coronavirus-linked deaths in Northern Ireland.

Friday's weekly statistics release show 716 people have died where Covid-19 was mentioned on their death certificate up to May 22. Those people involved may not necessarily have been tested for the virus, but medical professionals suspected it may have been involved, hence the difference.

Over half of those that have died were care home residents. The numbers also show that deaths mentioning the disease have fallen for the fourth week in a row.

here's how Friday unfolded:

Belfast Telegraph