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Coronavirus Northern Ireland: Two further deaths and 98 new cases reported as vaccine programme extended

Death toll rises to 2,123


The Oxford/AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine (Nick Potts/PA)

The Oxford/AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine (Nick Potts/PA)

The Oxford/AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine (Nick Potts/PA)

There have been two further deaths from Covid-19 in Northern Ireland recorded within the last 24 hours, according to the Department of Health.

The latest figures show that Northern Ireland's death toll from the virus has risen to 2,123.

Over the past seven days there have been eight deaths from the virus, the same as the week before.

The department also confirmed 98 new cases of Covid-19 after 1,913 tests were carried out.

A total of 117,919 people have now tested positive for the virus in Northern Ireland.

Over the past seven days 535 people have been diagnosed with Covid-19, down from 926 the week before.

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There are currently 102 Covid-19 patients in Northern Ireland's hospitals, with 12 in an intensive care unit.

Hospital bed occupancy currently stands at 101%, while 21 intensive care unit beds remain free.

There are currently five active Covid-19 outbreaks in care homes.

The figures come as the Department of Health announced that Northern Ireland's vaccination programme would be extended to people in the 40 to 44-years-old group.

Health Minister Robin Swann described the expansion as "very welcome news to people in this age group".

Thursday's figures also come amidst crowds gathering in protest across Northern Ireland and riots breaking out in west Belfast on Wednesday night. Disorder was sparked after the PPS decided not to prosecute coronavirus breaches at the funeral of former republican Bobby Storey in June 2020.

Meanwhile, the Health Secretary Matt Hancock said everyone should take a vaccine when their time comes and has declared that the vaccines are safe.

He urged the under-30s, who will be offered an alternative vaccine to AstraZeneca, to take a jab to protect loved ones and avoid the risk of long Covid, adding there were was "more than enough" Moderna and Pfizer for this age range.

He told BBC Breakfast on Thursday that: "The vaccines are safe, and if you want to have the Pfizer vaccine or Moderna vaccine instead then that is fine.

"Covid is a horrible disease and long Covid affects people in their 20s just as much it seems as any other age group and can have debilitating side effects that essentially ruin your life."

He added: "The safety system that we have around this vaccine is so sensitive that it can pick up events that are four in a million [the chance of developing a rare brain blood clot] - I'm told this is about the equivalent risk of taking a long-haul flight."

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