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Nine more Covid-related deaths as fresh calls made to protect teachers remaining in classrooms

'We must ensure teachers and staff are both safe and feel safe.  At present that is not the case. They feel vulnerable and let down'

There were nine further Covid-related deaths reported by the Department of Health today (Saturday).

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

The overall total number of deaths recorded by the Department now stands at 1,443.

There were a further 1,442 cases reported in the last 24 hours, with 236 in Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon and a further 204 in Newry, Mourne and Down. There were 129 cases in Mid Ulster.

A total of 4,777 individuals were tested.

There are 574 – up 75 – people now in hospital as a result of the virus, 47 – up three – of whom are in intensive care units.

There are currently 19 ICU beds available in Northern Ireland.

A total of 129 – up 36 – patients are in Craigavon. To date, 855 patients have been discharged from the Co. Armagh hospital.

There are 31 – eight more  – Covid patients in Daisy Hill, with 15 – up two – in Lurgan Hospital.

Saturday’s figures come as a local Assemblyman has called on Education Minister Peter Weir to provide additional support and resources in local schools as school leaders and teachers raise concern for their own health and well-being.

Newry and Armagh SDLP MLA Justin McNulty said: “This week’s decision by the Executive to move education to remote learning until mid-February is the right decision and I welcome it.

“I also welcome the decision to allow Special Schools and other educational settings to remain open for children and young people who have special educational needs or complex needs and for vulnerable children.

“However, in asking teachers to remain in the classroom, especially in special schools where social distancing is not possible, we must protect them. We must ensure teachers and staff are both safe and feel safe.  At present that is not the case. They feel vulnerable and let down.

“Teachers and staff are committed and passionate educationalists and they are devoted to improving the quality of the lives of our young people. They are all determined to ensure that our young people achieve their best.

“But it is very concerning that there have been no additional resources put in place, no additional Personal Protective Equipment and no plans for rapid testing or for vaccination of those on the front line in education.  These are issues I have been raising in the Assembly Chamber, in committee and with the Minister and his officials for months and yet nothing has happened.

“I have written to the Minister again this week. He must step up and he must act to protect children and staff throughout the education system.  He must do it now and not wait for schools to return to normal teaching in February.”

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