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Swann reveals extent of Covid-19 care home testing and launches mental health action plan

  • NI death toll rises to 489 with further seven deaths announced

  • Executive to consider allowing people to visit family indoors while social distancing

  • Death toll in Republic of Ireland reaches 1,561

  • UK-wide coronavirus-related deaths surpasses 35,000

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A group of friends from different households wear face masks as they meet again for the first time together since the Covid-19 lockdown began at Stormont on May 19, 2020. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

A group of friends from different households wear face masks as they meet again for the first time together since the Covid-19 lockdown began at Stormont on May 19, 2020. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

Getty Images

A group of friends from different households wear face masks as they meet again for the first time together since the Covid-19 lockdown began at Stormont on May 19, 2020. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

Health Minister Robin Swann said 40% of all care home residents have been tested in Northern Ireland along with thousands of staff.

He also launched a mental health action plan stating an aspect of the strategy will focus on supporting people during the coronavirus crisis and as lockdown measures ease.

There are currently 71 active care home outbreaks and 33 where the virus did spread among residents but has since shown no recent signs.

Mr Swann said there will not be a "league table" of care homes affected by Covid-19. He said it would not be fair to name each individual care home affected, partially due to data protection regulations and also because it would "put pressure" on staff and families.

He said the 'R' number, the reproductive rate of the virus, is 0.7-0.8 and he will be working to publish this figure weekly.

Mr Swann issued a reminder about social distancing as some lockdown restrictions are eased.

"People will be out and about a bit more including meeting family members and friends outdoors... please remember social distancing remains a matter of life and death," he said.

"Wash your hands like your life depends on it because it just might.

"Yesterday's announcement on changes to the restrictions was good news ... but we must not throw away that progress.

"Flouting the public health advice will lead to the lockdown being tightened."

Another seven people have died from Covid-19 in Northern Ireland, the Department of Health announced on Tuesday.

Four of the deaths occurred in the past 24 hours, while the other three were previously unreported. It brings the death toll from Covid-19 in Northern Ireland to 489.

Also speaking at the daily Executive press conference was Finance Minister Conor Murphy. He announced another raft of financial measures to support businesses through the pandemic.

He stressed the importance of the pathway to recovery from the pandemic being co-ordinated across all Ireland and he wanted to protect livelihoods and jobs.

He said the newly announced rates relief extension will help sustain the viability of many businesses.

Read our live blog below to see how Tuesday's developments unfolded.

Belfast Telegraph