Sinn Fein MLA and Assembly Health Committee chair Colm Gildernew has said that it is "concerning" that areas of deprivation have higher Covid-19 death tolls and called for immediate action to prevent more deaths if a second wave hits.
Mr Gildernew was responding today to figures published by the Belfast Telegraph that revealed that an East Belfast community has recorded more COVID-19 deaths than any other community across the north.
The figures showed that the deaths of 36 residents in parts of east Belfast - including some of the most affluent parts of the city, such as Stormont and Ballyhackamore - were registered by May 29. A further 28 deaths of people living in Castlereagh, Clarawood, Gilnahirk and Knock had been registered by the same date.
All parts of Belfast were badly affected by the virus, according to the figures released by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA).
There were 45 Covid-19 deaths registered in north Belfast, which takes in the likes of Crumlin Road, Ardoyne and New Lodge. A further 30 deaths were registered for people with postcodes in the area including the Shankill Road and Ballygomartin.
There were 33 deaths attributed to the virus in south Belfast, although the figures show that Saintfield Road, Four Winds, Carryduff, Knockbreda and Newtownbreda were worse affected than the Malone Road, Ormeau and Lisburn Road areas.
The figures do not state where the person died or where they contracted the virus.
Following the release of the figures, Mr Gildernew has said that the Department of Health must make tangible and immediate efforts to tackle health inequalities.
"In recent days it has been confirmed that our more deprived and densely populated communities have been impacted most by the COVID-19 pandemic. One area of East Belfast has recorded the most deaths due to the virus, according to NISRA.
“Areas of high deprivation are known to have ongoing and largely unaddressed underlying health conditions such as obesity, respiratory disease and various cancers.
“As the pandemic took hold in recent months, it is clear that inequalities in health, housing and income have become even more deadly for our citizens who are trapped in areas of high deprivation."
Mr Gildernew added that he was deeply concerned that a second wave of COVID-19 in the future could be even more deadly.
"A second wave would be likely to disproportionately affect deprived communities where underlying conditions are even more life-threatening and low income inhibits the ability of the poor to access face masks and hygiene products.
“Immediate action is needed across all departments, and in particular the Department of Health, to prepare our more deprived communities for the possibility of a second wave of COVID-19.”