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Coronavirus Northern Ireland: Republic's slower vaccination programme will ‘bring headaches’, says Foster

  • Executive will begin to lift restrictions when it is in a position of 'certainty' - Michelle O'Neill
  • Northern Ireland death toll rises to 2,066
  • Swann ‘not comfortable’ with mandatory vaccine certificates

First Minister Arlene Foster believes the Republic of Ireland’s slower Covid-19 vaccination programme will cause problems as Northern Ireland’s continues to move at pace.

The number of people in Northern Ireland who have received their first Covid vaccination has reached almost 600,000, while in the Republic, only 6.15% of the population have received theirs.

Speaking during Thursday’s Covid-19 press conference, Mrs Foster said the differing speeds at which the vaccine programmes are progressing will “bring headaches”.

“It’s very clear that we are going to be finished our vaccination programme and the Republic of Ireland will still be in the midst of theirs. That does bring headaches,” stated the DUP leader.

“I think we will have to hear from our Chief Medical Officer [Dr Michael McBride] in relation to that - whether we need to take any actions.

“If you have people who are interacting with people who have been vaccinated then it becomes less effective because the virus learns that and then we would be in difficulty.

“I think there will be a need to look at this in the future.”

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Meanwhile, Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill stated that the Executive will begin to lift lockdown restrictions as soon as “we’re in a position to give certainty”.

“Things do look good today,” she said. “The virus transmission is on a downward trajectory but with what we've experienced in the past year that can quickly reverse itself.

“With the continued support of the public we’ll get to the point very quickly where we’ll be able to announce what does the first stage in lifting the restrictions looks like.”

It comes after the Department of Health reported three new deaths linked to coronavirus in Northern Ireland in the last 24 hours.

This brings the total deaths in Northern Ireland to 2,066 as of 10am on Thursday.

A further 163 positive cases of the virus have been reported, meaning there have been 113,169 positive cases confirmed in Northern Ireland since the start of the pandemic.

Covid-19 update with First Minister Arlene Foster and deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill

Covid-19 update with First Minister Arlene Foster and deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/northern-ireland/coronavirus-northern-ireland-three-further-deaths-and-163-new-cases-confirmed-40159071.html

Posted by Belfast Telegraph on Thursday, March 4, 2021

This includes 1,305 positive cases in the last seven days.

In Northern Ireland hospitals, there are now 257 Covid-19 patients, including 29 patients in intensive care.

A total of 63 patients are on ventilators, including 27 with Covid-19.

Hospital occupancy is currently at 94% and there are 20 active outbreaks of the virus in Northern Ireland care homes.

Meanwhile, the Health Minister said he is not in favour of Covid-19 vaccine certificates becoming mandatory in Northern Ireland.

Robin Swann said they may be used for international travel but the idea they may be required in Northern Ireland to visit the cinema or restaurant “doesn’t sit comfortably with me”.

Appearing at the Stormont health committee on Thursday morning, the UUP minister also said the use of vaccine certificates is not generally supported by the Executive.

Mr Swann also provided an update on the vaccination programme and again ruled out the need for a 24/7 service.

He said consideration is being given to the possibility that the planned mass vaccination at the SSE Arena will run extended hours but not on a 24/7 basis.

He also said he expects that everyone over the age of 50 will have received a vaccine by April.

Belfast Telegraph

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