Ireland

Covid cases in North could start to rise due to Delta variant, Foster warns

The North’s First Minister has expressed concern that Covid-19 case numbers could start to rise again due to the Delta variant.

Arlene Foster said the current pandemic situation in the region is “very positive”, but she said there are concerns that progress could be undermined.

“We are at yet another point where we are concerned. We’re concerned about the Delta variant… the fact that our positive cases now are showing that 20 to 25 per cent of our new positive cases are now of the Delta variant,” she said.

“We know in other jurisdictions that we’ve listened to today that the Delta variant is now the main source of Covid-19. We’re a little behind that.

“So whilst we have good news at the moment, in terms of not having anybody in intensive care, and that our hospital admissions haven’t started to rise, we are concerned that that will be the case in a number of weeks’ time.”

Facilities set up for coronavirus surge testing in Kilkeel, Co Down. Photo: Liam McBurney/PA

On Thursday, the Public Health Agency said it has identified 111 probable or confirmed cases of the Delta variant across Northern Ireland, with 28 cases in the Co Down town of Kilkeel, where mobile testing units were placed following reports of likely cases in the area.

Ms Foster said a balance has to be struck between reopening society and the economy, and keeping the Delta variant, first identified in India, at bay.

“We have to continue to open up, we have to continue to relax the restrictions, but we have to do it in a way that will protect our citizens. That’s a very big challenge” she said.

“And my advice on that is to listen to our excellent experts to take their advice, but to also obviously, try to move forward and open up the economy and society.”

On Friday the North’s Department of Health notified that there had been one further death of a patient who had previous tested positive for the virus.

Another 121 confirmed cases of the virus were also recorded.

On Friday morning there were 18 confirmed Covid-19 inpatients in hospital in the North, none of whom were in intensive care.

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