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‘Nuanced’ changes to lockdown, but nothing more, Foster warns

The total number of coronavirus deaths in Northern Ireland is now 422.

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Arlene Foster during the daily media broadcast at Parliament Buildings (Kelvin Boyes/Press Eye/PA)

Arlene Foster during the daily media broadcast at Parliament Buildings (Kelvin Boyes/Press Eye/PA)

Arlene Foster during the daily media broadcast at Parliament Buildings (Kelvin Boyes/Press Eye/PA)

There may be “nuanced” changes to Northern Ireland’s lockdown measures, First Minister Arlene Foster said, after extending current restrictions for another three weeks.

Mrs Foster said it was important to “move together as a bloc” with the rest of the UK to send a clear and simple message to the population.

It comes as UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson prepares to address the nation on Sunday, outlining how lockdown measures, introduced on March 23, will be eased.

Mrs Foster said restrictions in Northern Ireland, extended on Thursday, would remain in place for the foreseeable future.

But she said it was important to offer some “hope” to the public.

She told BBC Breakfast: “There’s a difference between sticking with the restrictions and making nuanced changes.

“During those three weeks we can look to see if there are some nuanced changes we can make and I would put going out more for exercise in the open air as a nuanced change rather than a fundamental change.

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(PA Graphics)

(PA Graphics)

Press Association Images

(PA Graphics)

“I think those things can be looked at… but what is important is the regulations are put in place for another three weeks.”

Mrs Foster said she spoke to Mr Johnson on Thursday, and he said he was “moving forward with maximum caution”.

“He, and I as well, want us to move forward if we can in a four-nations way,” she said.

“Because when we do that we have a simplicity of message, we have a clarity of message, and people really understand what’s really going on when we move together as a bloc.”

Five further coronavirus-related deaths were reported by the Department of Health on Friday, bringing the total number in Northern Ireland to 427.

The data for the last 24 hours includes two deaths during that period, and three which occurred previously but had not been reported.

An additional 1,202 people were tested, resulting in 38 new confirmed cases of Covid-19 and bringing the total number of known cases to 4,022.

On Friday, the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (Nisra) show that 516 deaths involving Covid-19 have been recorded on death certificates by May 1.

The figures also show the number of people who died from Covid-19 outside hospital was almost twice the number of those who died in hospital.

Of the 115 deaths from April 25 to May 1, 39 occurred in hospital, 71 in care homes, one in a hospice and four at home.

The department’s figures are based on patients having previously tested positive for the virus whereas Nisra figures are based on the information entered on death certificates, filled out by medical professionals.

They may or may not have previously tested positive for the virus.

That represents an increase of 113 on the 383 deaths reported by the Northern Ireland Public Health Agency (PHA) on that day.

The Nisra figures indicated that 49% of deaths were in hospitals, 45% in care homes, 5.2% at home and 0.8% at hospices.

The 236 deaths in care homes and hospices involved 66 separate establishments.

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