First Minister praises work of healthcare staff but warned another curfew could be looked at by Executive
First Minister Arlene Foster has said there “are very few options left” for the Executive to take to help stop the spike in Covid-19 positive cases - except introducing another curfew.
It comes after the Department of Health reported that a further 16 people in Northern Ireland died after testing positive for the virus.
Another 759 new cases were also confirmed, something Mrs Foster felt showed that the country was “moving in the right direction” after cases continually exceeded 1,000.
Speaking to BBC Radio Ulster's Evening Extra outside her Co Fermanagh home on Monday, the DUP leader refused to accept any responsibility for the rise in cases following the relaxation of the safety regulations over the Christmas period.
“The Executive unanimously decided on our Christmas plans, as indeed the people in the Republic of Ireland and indeed right across the United Kingdom - recognising the special place that Christmas has for a lot of us,” she said.
“I think it’s more than just that. I think we now know that the new variant in terms of coronavirus is here in Northern Ireland.
“The South African variant unfortunately appears to be in the Republic of Ireland. We have no current cases detected in Northern Ireland and we want to keep it that way.
“However, we do know that the virus does mutate and we are seeing that now and that’s why we have to take action when we see that happening.”
When asked what more the Executive can do after tightening the restrictions last week, Mrs Foster stated that she and her colleagues will listen to the medical advisors.
“There are very limited ways that we can do anything further, apart from looking again at curfews and doing something along those lines, but at present we will of course hear what our medical advisors have to say to us tomorrow and on Thursday,” she said.
The First Minister also praised the work of healthcare staff following the pressures on Craigavon Area Hospital and Daisy Hill Hospital over the weekend.
The Western Trust stepped in to help ease the pressure on the Southern Trust by accepting patients.
“We did go above 2,000 positive cases in a couple of days so therefore that is now feeding it’s way through the hospital system regrettably,” added Mrs Foster.
“We will have this pressure on the system I think now for a couple of weeks and we have to ready ourselves for that.
“I want to pay tribute to all of the nurses and doctors who answered the call, for example from the Southern Trust and the Western Trust last night to try and help out their colleagues, even though they weren't scheduled to be at work.
“I think that just shows what these people are made of and they came forward and did that.”