1. ITV Report

Coronavirus: Three more Covid-19 deaths in Northern Ireland

The last 24 hours has also seen 34 new positive cases of coronavirus identified in Northern Ireland Credit: Presseye

The number of coronavirus deaths in Northern Ireland has risen by three, bringing the total to 13, the Public Health Agency has confirmed.

The total number of cases now stands at 275, and increase of 34 from Thursday.

Across the UK, a further 181 people have died after contracting the coronavirus - in the biggest daily rise since the outbreak began.

The total number of virus-related deaths in the country now stands at 759.

The number of people to have tested positive for the virus has risen by nearly 3,000, bringing the number of confirmed cases in the UK to 14,579.

It comes as a number of leading GPs in Belfast called for a complete lockdown, saying they are “dismayed” at how many people are failing to understand the gravity of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The four chairs of the Belfast GP Federations say they “see with alarm” the effects the coronavirus spread is having in other countries around the world.

They feel the current government advice on social distancing is “not stringent enough”.

The joint statement is signed by Dr Paul Loughrey, chair of the North Belfast GP Federation; Dr Ursula Mason, chair of the South Belfast GP Federation; Dr James Crothers, chair of the East Belfast GP Federation; and Dr George O’Neill and Dr Joe Dugan, joint chairs of the West Belfast GP Federation.

We are dismayed at the actions of many members of the public, who it seems to us, are failing to understand the gravity of the current situation in which we find ourselves.

– Belfast GP Federation chairs

“We accept that the public finds it difficult to understand the gravity of the condition at this stage,” they note.

“As cases have few overt signs at the start and most cases with mild symptoms are currently managed by self-management in the community or, if severe, in hospital and thus are largely ‘out of sight’.

“It is very clear that a sizeable cohort of patients develop a profound shortage of oxygen very quickly in this disease and they need medical support, usually oxygen, for over two weeks on average.

“These patients can be managed in our healthcare system when there are limited numbers and sufficient resources.

“Our concern is that, in the next few weeks, numbers will escalate significantly and anything which can be done to reduce spread of the virus in our Belfast communities, and indeed across Northern Ireland, should be adopted.

“This will protect the vulnerable, support staff and reduce morbidity and mortality.”

We call on our political leaders to hear and act on our heartfelt plea and move to adopt a ‘complete lockdown’ as we have seen in other countries, at the earliest opportunity.

– Belfast GP Federation chairs

The GPs note that Covid-19 is more infectious that flu, can be carried asymptomatically or with mild symptoms in 60% of cases, and has catastrophic effects in the short-term for a large number of patients.

“There is no treatment and no cure other than supportive measures for patients when they are ill and until they can recover from the illness,” they say.

“The fact that so many people can carry the virus with extremely limited effect to themselves means that, whilst these individuals continue to move through the community, albeit in a limited fashion, they are still spreading the virus.”

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