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Death of father has brought pain of Covid-19 into 'sharp focus', says Environment Minister Edwin Poots

The Environment minister Edwin Poots has said the recent death of his father has brought into "sharp focus" the pain caused to families by Covid-19 restrictions.

It comes as a further nine people in Northern Ireland have died as a result of Covid-19, bringing the total to 338.

The UK figure has risen to 26,097 deaths while in the Irish Republic the current total is 1,159.

Speaking at the daily Executive briefing, Mr Poots said he appreciated how difficult it had been for people not to visit relatives or attend funeral services.

“The death of my dad last week of course brings the focus of family and loved ones into sharp focus for me personally,” he said.

“I know how hard it is for all of you, not to do which comes most naturally. Covid-19 has robbed us of the very things that bring us joy.

“Seeing our loved ones, a tight hug, comforting a friend, visiting your family, having a traditional funeral and wake.”

He said that small steps to ending lockdown, like opening gardening centres and some churches would help people stay at home for longer.

Mr Poots also called for support for the agri-food sector, which he said could risk the loss of 10,000 jobs during the pandemic.

At the briefing, the Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey said there would be “a positive announcement” in the coming days on supermarket deliveries for vulnerable people.

She said the fact that Northern Ireland had 350 individual health databases, compared to one in England, had made it harder to make the arrangements.

She revealed that over 80,000 vulnerable people had received shielding letters from GPs, more than twice the initial estimate.

A total of 34,000 food parcels have now been distributed since the outbreak began, and she said Stormont’s discretionary support service is receiving over 10,000 calls a day.

On Universal Credit, she said there had been an “unheard of” 57,000 new claims in recent weeks, with £1.3m paid out in discretionary payments to those facing hardship.

Belfast Telegraph