| 10°C Belfast

Health minister Robin Swann warns public against complacency after day without Covid-19 deaths in Northern Ireland

The Health Minister has urged the public not to get carried away after no new deaths from Covid-19 were reported on Tuesday.

While Robin Swann admitted "we have all been waiting for this day", he urged caution, stressing that while it is a clear sign of progress, there were "no grounds whatsoever for complacency".

It was the first time since March 18 there was no report of a Covid-19 death, with the toll remaining at 514.

It comes just a day after the Republic of Ireland also announced it had no deaths.

On Monday, there were 928 tests for the virus carried out on 687 people, resulting in 28 positive cases, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 4,637.

The UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock paid tribute to the "resolve" of people in Northern Ireland and the work of Mr Swann following the announcement.

However, Mr Swann still had a serious note of caution.

Daily Headlines Newsletter & Evening Telegraph Newsletter

Receive today's headlines directly to your inbox every morning.

This field is required

"There are no grounds whatsoever for complacency," he said. "That would be an insult to all those who have sadly lost their lives and to all those who are mourning them.

"Covid-19 is still infecting people in our community. Sadly there will be more lives lost in the days and weeks ahead.

"However, there is a clear downwards trend in the rolling number of cases and deaths that we are reporting. That is positive and it's a testament to each and every single person who has remained at home in recent months and abided by the guidelines."

Queen's University virologist Dr Connor Bamford said the news was very positive.

"We're right where we would want to be at this stage," he said. "But we still have to remain cautious.

"It shows what a successful lockdown period can achieve, but we have to remember that even though we're entering a new phase, we would still want to see a consistent zero deaths total over a number of days.

"We also have to remember that there could have been deaths that haven't yet been recorded over this period, and they might come through in the next two or three days depending on how they have been recorded.

"There's still a need to keep a very close watch on the number of infections as some aspects of lockdown are eased.

"In three weeks' time we might see the number of deaths increase again, but it remains a very positive day in the fight against the virus."

The Health Minister also urged the public not to be distracted by the controversy surrounding Prime Minister Boris Johnson's top political adviser Dominic Cummings.

"Yesterday the UK reported an additional 121 people had sadly passed away. Yet yesterday's news cycle and even today's is still almost entirely focused on the actions of a single individual," he said.

"As ill judged as many of his actions were, I would urge everyone not to lose sight that we are still very much in the midst of this virus and the grief and loss of so many is still far too raw.

"I believe there is no person, no position or point of privilege that is above the guidance and the regulations.

"It is far too early to allow distractions to take away from the key public messages.

"A second wave of the virus is also widely expected in the months ahead. We must keep our defences up at all times because actions have consequences. Don't let someone you love, or someone you don't know, suffer the consequences of your actions."

There were words of warning, too, for people who are starting to travel in greater numbers to coastal resorts.

"The battle against the virus is in a new phase now," said Mr Swann.

"There are now more legitimate reasons to be out and about than there were a few weeks ago. I believe the easing of regulations have been widely welcomed across the country but we must not forget the basics.

"If people get it into their heads that this emergency is over, the consequences will be catastrophic. The progress made in recent months will be swiftly undone and we will have to move back towards a tighter lockdown. Think before you act. You have more discretion now. Use it sensibly.

"Travelling is still only advised if you're taking part in a necessary activity. We're still not there where travel is a leisure pursuit.

"When we meet up in groups of six, we ask people to do it as close to home as possible to ease the amount of people travelling across the country.

"The fact that we're recording zero deaths today is a big statement in Northern Ireland. That's a positive, but let's not put that work in jeopardy."

Download the Belfast Telegraph App

Get quick and easy access to the latest Northern Ireland news, sport, business and opinion with the Belfast Telegraph App.

Download on the app store Get it on Google Play

Top Videos