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Coronavirus updates: Northern Ireland to receive five million PPE items, as 12 more deaths are recorded

  • Total of 48 deaths and 904 confirmed cases to date in NI after biggest daily rise
  • NI to receive five million PPE items from UK stocks but no joint order with Republic placed
  • NHS staff testing facility at the SSE Arena to open this weekend after Randox tests are made available in NI as part of UK plan
  • Arlene Foster backs health minister after criticism from Sinn Fein's Michelle O'Neill
  • Scroll down for live coverage of the latest news in the battle against coronavirus

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An Emergency Department Nurse during a demonstration of the Coronavirus pod and COVID-19 virus testing. Michael Cooper/PA Wire

An Emergency Department Nurse during a demonstration of the Coronavirus pod and COVID-19 virus testing. Michael Cooper/PA Wire

An Emergency Department Nurse during a demonstration of the Coronavirus pod and COVID-19 virus testing. Michael Cooper/PA Wire

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has announced that five millions PPE items will be sent to Northern Ireland from UK stocks.

It comes after Finance Minister Conor Murphy confirmed an order for PPE from China he announced last week as part of a cross-border initiative between Stormont and the Republic of Ireland was "not fulfilled". Mr Murphy said plans were scuppered when global powers entered the race for PPE last weekend.

Meanwhile First Minister Arlene Foster said the Executive is doing everything possible to protect NHS staff. "We might not always agree in our approach but I don't doubt for one minute the sincerity of Michelle, Robin or Conor," she said.

"We need to focus on the things that really matter," she said, adding it was key that advice on social distancing was not drowned out ahead of the weekend.

Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill said progress had been made after a lengthy Executive meeting.

"You need from us more PPE and testing and we are working around the clock to provide those," she said.

On Thursday night, Mrs O'Neill told BBC Northern Ireland's The View that Health Minister Robin Swann acted "too slowly" in keys areas such as sourcing personal protective equipment (PPE) and ramping up testing.

"Now is not the time for us to lose our nerve," said Mr Swann on Friday. "Now is the time to step up and put our faith in the men and women of the health service."

He confirmed the Westminster government had agreed to provide more PPE to Northern Ireland immediately and said a Randox health staff testing site will go live in the car park of the SSE Arena in Belfast at the weekend.

Twelve more people have died from Covid-19 in Northern Ireland, the Public Health Agency (PHA) announced earlier.

It is the first time the number of people to die in a single day in Northern Ireland has reached double figures since the outbreak of the pandemic, with the death toll now standing at 48.

In the biggest daily increase to date there were 130 new cases of Covid-19 from Thursday as of 11.10am on Friday morning. The total number of confirmed cases in Northern Ireland stands at 904.

A total of 626 tests were carried out, bringing the number of people tested to 7,525.

Check out our live blog below to see how Friday's coronavirus developments unfolded:

Belfast Telegraph