Coronavirus: Rise in Covid-19 cases is ‘deeply concerning’

A woman wearing a protective mask walks past a warning sign in Greater ManchesterImage copyright

The rising number of Covid-19 cases in Northern Ireland is “deeply concerning”, Health Minister Robin Swann has said.

At the weekend, 398 new positive cases were recorded, with almost a thousand documented in the past seven days.

In a social media post, Mr Swann said “important decisions to be taken in the days and weeks ahead”.

He added that “everyone must play their part by following public health advice”.

The minister’s comments comes as Health Secretary Matt Hancock warned the UK was facing a “tipping point”.

“If everybody follows the rules then we can avoid further national lockdown,” Mr Hancock added.

‘Step up’

On Saturday, the highest number of people tested positive for the virus since the Department of Health rolled out its current testing model.

There were 222 positive cases and then another 176 cases confirmed on Sunday.

There have been 977 positive tests in the last seven days.

Coronavirus-related death statistics are not updated at the weekend in Northern Ireland, where the death toll recorded by the Department of Health stands at 575.

According to the department’s statistical dashboard, 21 people are in hospital with Covid-19, four in intensive care units.

Meanwhile, Justice Minister Naomi Long had called for landlords to take more responsibility amid a clampdown on parties in the Holyland area of south Belfast.

The area, which has many student tenants, saw 47 Covid notices and nine prohibition notices issued on Friday and Saturday night.

Belfast and a number of other postcodes in Northern Ireland are currently subject to tighter restrictions on how many people can gather.

The NI Executive’s regulations stipulate that, with limited exceptions, households should not mix indoors.

Mrs Long said landlords needed to “step up” and “revisit tenancies where tenants cross a line”.

The Holyland area has the highest concentration of homes of multiple occupancy (HMOs), which the minister told BBC News NI made it “hard to police”.

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Image caption

The clean-up operation after a night of parties in the Holyland area of south Belfast

Mrs Long said people, not just students, were coming to the area because it had become a “magnet for anti-social behaviour”.

“The police will play their part obviously in terms of enforcement but it can’t be just the police, the universities and the city council have a role to play,” she said.

“What we need now is not just public sector agencies to engage, but actually the private landlords who are the lure that bring young people into the area, to step up and take responsibility for their tenants.”

In Stranmillis, another area with a large student population, police issued 24 Covid notices and four prohibition notices.

A prohibition notice is issued to bars and venues which breach coronavirus legislation.

On Friday, officers said they disrupted a party at an apartment where 30 people had gathered in the Holyland; three of which tried to hide by locking themselves in a bathroom.

On the same day, both Queen’s University and Ulster University said students who breach Covid-19 guidelines will face an automatic suspension.

BBC News NI has contacted the Landlords Association for Northern Ireland (LANI) for a response.

BBC News