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Young Co Down pastor fights for his life after coronavirus diagnosis

Health chiefs probe preacher's recent contacts

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Pastor Mark McClurg

Pastor Mark McClurg

Pastor Mark McClurg.

Pastor Mark McClurg.

Pastor Mark McClurg

A young Co Down pastor was fighting for his life on Saturday night after being diagnosed with coronavirus just days ago.

Elim church members were last night urged to pray for 40-year-old Pastor Mark McClurg who is being treated in the intensive care unit (ICU) at the Ulster Hospital.

Bangor Elim issued details of the condition of father-of-three Mr McClurg, a pastor at its sister church in Newtownards.

A second pastor, in his 30s from a church in north Belfast, is also seriously ill in hospital after being diagnosed with Covid-19.

Sam McClurg - himself a pastor at Elim Church, Rathfriland - issued a statement on behalf of his brother Mark and his wife, and urged people not to try to contact Mark directly.

He said: "On behalf of Mark and Claire and his family we want to thank everyone who has been praying for him. A lot of people are texting messages of support directly to Mark, and whilst this is encouraging, Mark needs to focus his strength on beating this virus.

"His condition in ICU hasn't improved since Tuesday, so continue to pray for his lungs and breathing and for time for his body to beat this virus. God is in control."

Calling for prayers for Pastor Mark, Bangor Elim posted: "As you may be aware Mark was hospitalised early this week and on Thursday he tested positive for coronavirus.

"I am writing to ask for urgent prayer. Mark has had an uncomfortable night and the hospital have decided that ventilation may be the best course of action in order to give Mark's body and heart some rest from the stress he is currently experiencing.

"Please pray for God's intervention and healing power at this time. Please pray for Claire and the children who are also self-isolating at this time, also his brother Sam and all the family.

"Obviously, visiting by anyone including family is not permitted and this in itself is incredibly distressing for everyone closest to Mark."

It is understood there are growing concerns for the young pastor. It is not known if he had any underlying condition.

Health authorities are set to investigate who the busy preacher, who has a large congregation, had been in contact with in recent weeks.

Pastor McClurg, who only turned 40 last month, is also a director of the Campaigners Youth and Children Ministry (NI) Trust with an address at Ballymena Elim.

He's a Liverpool FC fan who regularly shares his passion for the Merseyside club on social media.

News that two young churchmen have been struck down with Covid-19 came after it emerged that an elderly Christian couple are also in intensive care in hospital here after being diagnosed with the deadly coronavirus.

The husband and wife are being treated in the ICU of a Belfast hospital. They have close links to the Salvation Army which has urged the public to pray for them.

Both pensioners, who are highly regarded in the community, were previously involved in the charity's branch in Dundonald on the outskirts of east Belfast. Their daughter and her family, who have also displayed symptoms of being infected, are self-isolating.

The first person in Northern Ireland to die of Covid-19 last Thursday is understood to be from east Belfast. He has been identified as an elderly male ex-postal worker who had been suffering from cancer.

on Saturday the number of confirmed cases of Northern Ireland rose by 22, bringing the total number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in Northern Ireland to 108. The total number of tests completed here is 2,186.

On Saturday night it was reported two cases had been confirmed at a Belfast nursing home.

The number of people to test positive for coronavirus in the UK stood at 5,018 on Saturday - up from 3,983 on Friday.

Deaths in the UK linked to the virus rose on Saturday by 53 to 233. The patients were aged between 41 and 94 years old and all had underlying health conditions.

In the Republic of Ireland, the death toll stood at three out of 785 confirmed cases on Saturday.

It was announced that an Irish naval vessel is being transformed into a Covid-19 testing centre. The LE Samuel Beckett is berthed at Sir John Rogerson's Quay on the River Liffey in Dublin city centre.

Details of the latest Covid-19 hospital admissions came as a doctor at the Ulster Hospital in Dundonald, where Pastor McClurg is being treated, urged the public to self-isolate and socially distance to limit its spread.

In a sombre video posted on Twitter, Dr Julia Courtney (below) said: "As a respiratory consultant in the Ulster Hospital, this is a personal plea.

"It is hard to actually convey the enormity of the crisis that is looming for the NHS, and so for everyone in the next few weeks.

"Huge numbers of people will die and the only thing that will have any impact on this impending catastrophe is slowing the spread of this virus.

"This is the week that the most people who are infected without knowing it will cause the virus to spread.

"What you do today will affect the ICU beds in the hospitals in the next two to three weeks. So, please, please, please stay at home if you can."

Dr Courtney's social media plea came after health professionals revealed all emergency departments at hospitals in Northern Ireland are being divided into two parts - one for Covid-19 victims and the other for regular cases.

At present there are 139 ventilators in Northern Ireland with another 40 ordered. ICU beds total 88, with attempts being made to expand this to 126.

Last night, the Royal College of Nursing's director in Northern Ireland, Pat Cullen, said nurses need ramped-up testing for Covid-19 so they can return to patients' bedsides. Those with symptoms are having to self-isolate for days.

"The reason that nurses are asking for testing is that they don't want to be away from work for seven or 14 days," she said.

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