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Northern Ireland's death toll now 118 after tough weekend as coronavirus surge starts

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Gareth Brownlee and his daughter Poppy pictured at the new NHS Heroes mural in Glendale Park, Glynn, Co Antrim. 
PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON

Gareth Brownlee and his daughter Poppy pictured at the new NHS Heroes mural in Glendale Park, Glynn, Co Antrim. PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON

Gareth Brownlee and his daughter Poppy pictured at the new NHS Heroes mural in Glendale Park, Glynn, Co Antrim. PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON

Northern Ireland saw a surge in coronavirus deaths over the Easter weekend as hospitals gear up for a week that is expected to test our health system like never before.

A further 26 people who tested positive for Covid-19 died in a two-day period as health staff here prepare for the anticipated surge in cases over the coming days.

Saturday saw the highest day-on-day increase in coronavirus-related deaths in Northern Ireland thus far with 15 recorded, followed by a further 11 on Sunday.

The number of people with coronavirus who have died in hospital here now stands at 118, while confirmed positive tests in the region since the outbreak began rose to 1,806.

The UK has recorded 737 new coronavirus-related hospital deaths, taking the total number to 10,612.

The UK is the fifth country to surpass 10,000 deaths, following the US, Spain, Italy and France.

A further 14 coronavirus-related deaths were announced in the Republic, bringing the total there so far to 334.

Let me assure you that everyone across Northern Ireland is proud of you all Robin Swann

On Sunday Health Minister Robin Swann paid tribute to health staff, saying they have "moved mountains" to prepare for the expected surge in coronavirus cases.

In an open letter Mr Swann thanked staff for their commitment and passion in tackling the Covid-19 crisis.

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Health Minister Robin Swann inspects one of the many face shields being produced by Huhtamaki in west Belfast

Health Minister Robin Swann inspects one of the many face shields being produced by Huhtamaki in west Belfast

Health Minister Robin Swann inspects one of the many face shields being produced by Huhtamaki in west Belfast

He said: "I am very aware of the incredible work pressures you are already under and that you are facing in the immediate future with a mixture of determination, deep anxiety and great pride in the work you and your colleagues are doing.

"Let me assure you that everyone across Northern Ireland is proud of you all.

"I have personally known for many years just how skilled, committed and, above all, compassionate our health and social care staff are.

"Many families across Northern Ireland will have experiences similar to mine, stories that involve staff from all parts of the system going the extra mile, day after day, to deliver the care that patients need."

Mr Swann said that the health system has trebled its critical care capacity and freed up almost half of the bed stock.

"We have trained hundreds of staff in new roles. We have increased our workforce. We have moved mountains," he added.

"We have all seen the reports from Italy and Spain. We have seen the severe impact this virus can have on society.

"However, there are some indications that the peak here may potentially be less severe [in] impact than at one time we had feared.

"It would seem that the Northern Ireland people have risen to the challenge and that social distancing has reduced the impact of this virus - in this wave. We cannot be certain about this - no modelling can predict the future - but we can acknowledge that the unprecedented social distancing restrictions on all our lives are starting to make an impact.

"Obviously, there are no grounds whatsoever for complacency across our community.

"We cannot undo the efforts made to date. We all have to dig deep and keep doing the right thing - staying at home, saving lives and protecting the health service.

"We also know that there will be very difficult times ahead, particularly for those of you working on the front line."

Mr Swann said the actions of health staff mean that people will live who might otherwise have died, adding: "There is nothing more important than this."

Belfast Telegraph