Second NI Nightingale hospital in Covid winter surge plan

  • Watch: Wednesday's Department of Health press conference

Health Minister Robin Swann has announced a plan for a second Nightingale facility in Northern Ireland as part of a surge plan ahead of what Mr Swann has warned, could be a "tough winter". It will be a step-down facility, located in Whiteabbey Hospital, Co Antrim, and will include 100 intermediate care beds. The region previously had a Nightingale facility opened at Belfast City Hospital for coronavirus patients.

"This virus still proves to be lethal," the minister said.

Mr Swann continued: "But it will still take its toll. More people will sadly lose their lives and other people will suffer long term damage to their health. "

The Health Minister was speaking during Wednesday's Stormont press conference as 71 people have tested positive for Covid-19 in Northern Ireland in the last 24 hours and two deaths were reported.

More than four thousand individuals were tested in that period, with six thousand lab tests carried out.

"Pressures are already building and demand for testing has intensified rapidly in recent weeks," he added. "Colleagues in Great Britain reported a similar picture linked to the reopening of schools and the understandable concerns of parents." "Our Primary Care Covid Centres are also reporting significant pressures and these are also linked in part to schools coming back. "We are working hard to get through these challenges and the expansion of Covid testing capacity is still a major priority across the United Kingdom." The minister appealed for people to only get tested if they have symptoms or if they are advised by the contact tracing service to get a test. He also said his department would be publishing the results of a review into care homes. "Care homes remain on the front line," he said. "The care home sector was extremely fragile before the pandemic, and the virus has exposed that. "Northern Ireland is by no means unique in that regard. The rapid learning initiative has identified 24 recommendations that will inform our approach going forward. "

  • Watch: Judith Hill reports on the day's developments: