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Robin Swann: Fresh lockdown cannot be ruled out

The health minister said extra testing and contact tracing was identifying more Covid-19 cases.

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Robin Swann has warned a return to lock down cannot be ruled out in Northern Ireland (David Young/PA).

Robin Swann has warned a return to lock down cannot be ruled out in Northern Ireland (David Young/PA).

Robin Swann has warned a return to lock down cannot be ruled out in Northern Ireland (David Young/PA).

Robin Swann has warned a return to lockdown cannot be ruled out in Northern Ireland.

The health minister said stepped-up testing and contact tracing was identifying more Covid-19 cases.

On Monday his department confirmed 39 more diagnoses. In the last seven days 302 people have tested positive.

Mr Swann said: “I think it’s a matter of looking now at the number of positive cases that we have and really emphasise to the people of Northern Ireland: this is in your hands.”

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(PA Graphics)

(PA Graphics)

Press Association Images

(PA Graphics)

He told UTV it was important to break the chains of infection.

Social distancing restrictions have been significantly eased over recent weeks.

Mr Swann said they may have to be re-examined if the virus is not brought under control.

“That’s where we as an Executive have to look at stepping back some of the relaxations that we have made in the past number of months. And I think that is where we are coming to very, very quickly.”

Localised coronavirus restrictions in parts of Northern Ireland where cases have surged may soon be required, the chief scientific adviser has warned.

Professor Ian Young said the rising numbers were of “considerable concern” and represented a 10-fold increase on infection rates earlier in the summer.

He said two council areas – Antrim & Newtownabbey and Mid & East Antrim – were particularly affected by surges.

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Prof Ian Young (Kelvin Boyes/Department Health/PA)

Prof Ian Young (Kelvin Boyes/Department Health/PA)

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Prof Ian Young (Kelvin Boyes/Department Health/PA)

Prof Young added: “I think we’re getting close to the point, certainly in those areas with the high numbers of cases, that we may have to consider whether any additional local measures are required.

“I don’t think we’re at the point where we’d be considering measures across the whole of Northern Ireland because there are still many parts of Northern Ireland where, as a result of public behaviours and other factors, the level of virus remains at a low level.”

Most of the new cases over the last 24 hours were in Belfast.

Mid and East Antrim local government district recorded the greatest rise in the number of diagnoses over the last seven days, at 73.

Belfast saw 71 new cases.

Prof Young said a “one-size-fits-all approach” would not be appropriate when it came to any renewed restrictions.

“We are undoubtedly seeing Covid fatigue and that leads into complacency,” he told BBC Radio Ulster.

PA