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Coronavirus updates: Up to 15,000 could die in Northern Ireland if guidance ignored, stresses Health Minister Swann

  • Death toll of pandemic in NI could reach 15,000 in worst case scenario, warns Health Minister
  • First NI Covid-19 patient dies, as nine new cases confirmed bringing total to 77
  • Arlene Foster backs calls for introduction of temporary basic income
  • All GCSE and A Level examinations cancelled but schools to open for healthcare workers' children
  • Number of critical care beds to be increased
  • Capacity to test for virus to increase four-fold

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Health Minister Robin Swann gives Thursday's Covid-19 update to the media at Stormont. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press

Health Minister Robin Swann gives Thursday's Covid-19 update to the media at Stormont. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press

Health Minister Robin Swann gives Thursday's Covid-19 update to the media at Stormont. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press

Up to 15,000 people could die from Covid-19 in Northern Ireland if the public does not adhere to guidelines, Health Minister Robin Swann has stressed.

Speaking at a press briefing on Thursday Mr Swann initially said that the number could be as high as 9,000 as Northern Ireland is facing a surge of "biblical proportions".

The 9,000 figure is based on a 50% infection rate and applying the observed worldwide mortality rate of 1% - so 9,000 deaths among the 900,000 people infected.

The minister later clarified that if 80% of the population (1.5 million) was infected, his department's worst case planning scenario, then the death toll would be much higher.

Mr Swann told PA: "If we fail as a community to take the necessary action to slow down the transmission of the virus, up to 80% of the Northern Ireland population could be infected during this pandemic.

"If all the public health advice is ignored, in a worst case nightmare scenario and with a fatality rate of 1%, then that could mean up to 14,000-15,000 lives lost."

It comes as the first death was reported in Northern Ireland. The patient was described as elderly and had a pre-existing medical condition.

There was an increase of nine cases in Northern Ireland of those that have been tested reported on Thursday bringing the total number to 77. Over 1,600 have been tested. Those with mild symptoms are not being tested but instead advised to self-isolate.

During the briefing, Education Minister Peter Weir announced that all GCSE and A Level examinations in Northern Ireland were being cancelled for the year in the wake of school closures.

First Minister Arlene Foster moved to reassure businesses, calling for a "huge injection" of money from the Treasury to help businesses retain staff.

The DUP leader said the Executive had been working with the UK Government to "see an employee support package coming forward", which she said "at a bare minimum" wipes out employer national insurance contributions, enables VAT deferment, "but ideally helps employers meet their wage commitments".

She also expressed Executive support for a temporary basic income for those affected by the coronavirus.

Her comments came shortly after sportswear firm O'Neills announced it is temporarily laying off up to 750 staff, with all operations to be suspended as of 6pm on Thursday.

In his daily press briefing Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the UK could "turn the tide" of the coronavirus outbreak in the next 12 weeks if people take the precautionary steps the Government has outlined.

Here's how Thursday unfolded:

Belfast Telegraph