Coronavirus: Second Stormont minister self-isolating over Covid-19

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Carál Ní Chuilín has announced she is self-isolating after a family member tested positive

The communities minister has confirmed she will self-isolate for two weeks after a close family member tested positive for Covid-19.

Carál Ní Chuilín said she had informed the Speaker of the Northern Ireland Executive that she would work remotely.

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill is also self-isolating after a relative tested positive for Covid-19.

It comes as 1,066 new cases were reported by the Department of Health, with one further death.

This is Northern Ireland’s second highest daily number of reported cases, after 1,080 positive cases were recorded on Friday.

There are now 137 inpatients with Covid-19 in Northern Ireland’s hospitals, 19 of whom are in intensive care.

The latest figures show 5,909 people have tested positive over the last seven days.

‘Alarming rise’

Sinn Féin vice-president Ms O’Neill said she “will continue to self-isolate” after testing negative for Covid.

Meanwhile, in a tweet Ms Ní Chuilín said she would be “fulfilling my responsibilities”.

  • How would a circuit breaker work for NI?

Meanwhile, South Down MP Chris Hazzard said the “alarming the rise of infections” was “focusing minds” of ministers around the Executive table.

He said he believed the issue of lockdowns would be examined by the Northern Ireland Executive on Monday and said collective action was needed this week.

“I think there was a logic and a sense to local lockdowns at a time but I think we are now moving into an area where we need to be looking at a more general lockdown once again,” he said.

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The executive will discuss lockdown measures on Monday, Chris Hazzard has said

“More general rigorous and robust methods of being able to suppress this virus.”

Mr Hazzard told BBC Northern Ireland’s Sunday Politics programme that health must come first.

“There is no strong economy without strong public health,” he said.

The Republic’s European Affairs Minister Thomas Byrne said a circuit breaker was “clearly under consideration” by the Irish government.

Speaking on the same programme, he said closer alignment was needed between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland regarding this discussion.

Mr Byrne said Taoiseach Michéal Martin was working closely with First Minister Arlene Foster, Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill and Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

“I think you will find that intensifying even further over the next few days,” he said.

“I think that is really important because we are in a public health crisis.

“NI is ahead of the Republic of Ireland at the moment but clearly our trajectory of numbers isn’t fantastic either.

“This island should be treated as one single epidemiological unit at the moment, our public health issues are so far more important than any other considerations.”

Mr Byrne said Ireland’s advice around essential travel was clear: “If you are in Dundalk we don’t want you going to Castleblaney and we don’t want you going to Newry and obviously the advice holds each way.

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The Republic’s European Affairs Minister Thomas Byrne has called for a more all-island approach

“If you are in Donegal don’t go into Derry but don’t go into Leitrim either.”

QUB virologist Dr Lindsay Broadbent said the “huge jump” in Covid-19 hospital admissions in the past week “means it is time to do something”.

“That is what is really worrying. We can keep an eye on the case numbers, that is one part of this,” she told BBC Radio Ulster’s Stephen Raney programme.

“The most important thing we have to keep an eye on is how many people are in hospital. “The hospital admission are what follow that increase in deaths, and that is really what we are trying to prevent.”