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Northern Ireland's 'Nightingale Hospital' temporarily stood down, health minister announces

Northern Ireland’s Nightingale hospital has been temporarily stood down, Health Minister Robin Swann has announced.

Belfast City Hospital has been used to increase critical care capacity for Covid-19, but Mr Swann said it would now remain on standby in case of a second surge.

The announcement comes as the Department of Health confirmed a further two people have died from coronavirus, bringing the total to 449.

Across the UK, the death of a further 494 people brings the total to 33,186.

Coronavirus Data Graphs

In the Irish Republic, there have been 24 more deaths meaning a total of 1,488 have died.

Speaking at the daily Executive briefing, Mr Swann said the amount of Covid patients requiring critical care had been reducing gradually.

He added that care homes remained “the frontline and an absolute priority” and around a quarter of residents (3,346) and staff (over 3,632) in Northern Ireland had now been tested for the virus.

He said there would be "a significant expansion" of testing capacity and the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service was currently providing mobile testing units.

Mr Swann also said he would soon be announcing a process to reform and investment for the social care sector in Northern Ireland.

"The social care sector has been struggling for years and as a whole is not fit for purpose," he said.

This week a five point recovery plan for Northern Ireland was announced by the Executive, but drew criticism from the business community for having no fixed dates.

Mr Swann called it “a bold decision” from the Executive which was intended to guard against any complacency from the public.

The Chief Medical Officer Dr Michael McBride said that standing down the Nightingale Hospital was a “significant” step and showed the positive impact of social distancing measures.

Asked about staff absences in health trusts due to Covid-19, Mr Swann said the figure was around 1,600.

This equated to around 2.5% of a workforce of 70,000 and included around 250 staff who had shown symptoms.

He added that many of the other absences were due to factors like shielding were staff already had underlying health conditions.

Belfast Telegraph

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