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Coronavirus Northern Ireland updates: Swann warns Covid is 'on the advance again' - local lockdowns could be imposed

  • Health Minister says local lockdowns could be put in place in NI
  • Further death brings the official death toll in NI to 559
  • Fresh restrictions are imposed in the Republic
  • QUB says between 500-1,000 extra places may be needed after A-level results U-turn
  • Scroll down to follow our live blog

Health Minister Robin Swann has warned that there are "clear indications" that Covid-19 "is on the advance again" in Northern Ireland.

Mr Swann was speaking following an increase in cases of the virus in the region in recent weeks, with 298 cases in the last seven days alone.

He said he was now as worried about the virus as he had been in some time and said local lockdowns could be put in place to combat the spread of Covid-19. The Executive will discuss the issue on Thursday.

Of the 298 cases in the last week, 78 have been in the Mid and East Antrim council area and 72 in Belfast.

"We are in danger of slipping down a very dangerous and slippery slope...This virus has not lost its energy or potency. It has not stopped its desire to spread," Mr Swann told a Stormont media briefing.

"The time is coming for the Executive to consider fresh and concrete actions to prevent the further spread of the virus," he said.

He said Northern Ireland successfully repelled the "nightmare scenario" in the first wave of Covid-19, however he said now is not the time for complacency.

The time is coming for the executive to consider fresh and concrete actions to prevent further spread of the virus Robin Swann

"The threat that stared us in the face back in March is still there but this is not the time to blink," he said.

The flu vaccination programme is also being expanded to help protect vulnerable people and relieve winter pressures during the pandemic.

The news come after the Department of Health confirmed that one further person here has died as a result of Covid-19, the Department of Health has confirmed.

The man, aged between 60 and 79, passed away in hospital in the Newry, Mourne and Down area on Saturday.

His death was previously unreported and brings the death toll from the virus in the region to 559.

Another 41 people have tested positive for Covid-19, bringing the total number of cases since the pandemic began to 6,471.

There are currently four Covid-19 inpatients in Northern Ireland's hospitals, with none in intensive care units.

A total of 1,521 people have been discharged from hospital after recovering from the virus.

There are currently seven active outbreaks of Covid-19 in Northern Ireland's care homes, up from four on Monday.

Meanwhile, there are concerns around the number of university places available in Northern Ireland after Peter Weir's dramatic U-turn on A-level grading on Monday.

Queen's University has warned it may need extra funding to accommodate extra students.

It comes after the Education Minister relented to pressure and said he would follow teacher's predictions for A-level results. If students received a higher grade than the prediction they will be allowed to retain it.

Thousands of students will now have their grades increased, leading to higher demand for university places.

Queen's University Professor Stuart Elborn told the BBC that the university could need as much as £4m to fund extra places.

He estimated that around 500 to 1,000 extra places may be needed at a cost of £4,000 per pupil.

Ulster University's interim vice-chancellor said he was confident they could cater for the extra demand.

"We are confident that we can take more students and I think before we start committing money I think we have to sit down and work out what the sector can do with the department to meet the needs of those students," Paul Bartholomew told the BBC.

Here's how Tuesday unfolded:

Belfast Telegraph