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Coronavirus updates: Belfast's Nightingale Hospital 'stood down' as plan announced to protect care homes from outbreak

  • Northern Ireland death toll rises to 449 after two further deaths

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Health Minister Robin Swann has announced Belfast's Nightingale Hospital will be "stood down" as the coronavirus crisis in Northern Ireland eases.

He said the Department of Health had made the decision to reduce the escalation level for critical care to low surge, but stressed hospital beds would still be available for those who need them and Nightingale could be restarted if needed.

Mr Swann also unveiled a comprehensive plan to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic in care homes across Northern Ireland.

There are currently outbreaks in 75 care homes, with around half of Northern Ireland's Covid-19 death toll coming from care home residents.

Commissioner for Older People Eddie Lynch said the deaths of some care home residents were being recorded as hospital deaths, thus skewing the official figures of how the sector has been hit.

There have been calls for more to be done to protect the sector with some of those working in care homes saying they felt "forgotten about".

Mr Swann said the Executive planned to "significantly expand testing" across care homes with the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service providing mobile testing from Monday.

Other measures include strengthening by trusts of hospital-to-community outreach teams to deliver specialist care and support to older people in care homes and their own homes.

Mr Swann said investment and reform in social care was also a top priority.

He is currently is finalising a paper for the Executive charting a way ahead for the sector, including as an immediate priority additional support for staff.

It comes after the Department of Health announced two further deaths from Covid-19 in Northern Ireland on Wednesday.

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Belfast Telegraph