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Four further Covid-related deaths in NI as concern raised over phased return to school approach

There have been a further four further Covid-related deaths reported by the Department of Health in Northern Ireland today (Monday).

Today’s stats – according to the official dashboard – take in the last 24 hours with all four passing away inside that period.

The overall total number of deaths recorded by the Department now stands at 2,036 – one previously reported death has since been removed following data analysis.

Of those deaths, the ABC Borough accounts for 269 – one more than Sunday – Newry, Mourne and Down District the same at 157; and Mid-Ulster, also no change, with 188.

There were a further 187 positive cases reported in the last 24 hours, with 26 in  Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon – the second highest in NI but 15 less than yesterday (Sunday). There was a further 10 in Newry, Mourne and Down and 18 in Mid-Ulster.

A total of 1,077 individuals were tested.

There are 386 people now in hospital as a result of the virus, 51 of whom are in intensive care units.

There are currently 28 ICU beds available in Northern Ireland.

A total of 142 Covid patients are currently in hospitals in the Southern Trust area – with 83 in Craigavon; 18 in Daisy Hill, 35 in Lurgan, six in St Luke’s, Armagh and none in South Tyrone.

Meanwhile, SDLP Assembly Member for Newry and Armagh Justin McNulty MLA has described the phased return of schools in the coming weeks as a welcome first step, however he has expressed concern at the approach taken.

Mr McNulty, a member of Stormont’s Education Committee explained: “Covid has disrupted all our lives and no more so than the children and young people in schools. I fully appreciate the need to have children return to face to face education however families and indeed teachers have been left confused by the decision of the Minister of Education.

“Teachers were planning for the return of those early years and as news broke of the planned return in March there was a sense of relief and positive anticipation.

“I have not met or interacted with a single teacher yet who want to keep teaching remotely. However, when the Minister clarified that Nursery and Primary 1- 3 would return for two weeks before reverting back to remote learning for a further two weeks before the Easter break, many were left wondering.

“When it was explained that this was to allow years 12, 13 and 14 in secondary schools return this added confusion to the plan.

“Parents are saying it just does not make sense. Some are saying that it would be better for children to remain at home until after the break, were as others are saying that other year groups should be returned.

“The onus is now on Minister Weir to explain the rationale for such plans. Parents and school leaders need answers. Children need a safe and managed return to school and I fear that the actions taken this week were taken so that the Minister could be seen to be acting rather than delivering a logical, strategic and planned return to face to face education.”

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