Sixteen more coronavirus-related deaths recorded in NI

Hospitals remain under severe pressure with more than 800 Covid patients needing care. Credit: PA

Sixteen more people who tested positive for coronavirus have died in Northern Ireland, according to the Department of Health – 13 of them in the last 24-hour reporting period.

It brings the official death toll to 1,533, although that figure is expected to increase significantly when deaths in all community settings have been accounted for.

The latest figures show there have also been 973 new positive cases, out of 3,596 individuals tested.

In the last seven days, there have been 7,769 cases - including 1,332 in the Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon area.

There are currently 850 people with Covid-19 being treated in hospitals across Northern Ireland.

Fifty-eight Covid patients are in intensive care, with 44 of them on ventilators.

Bed capacity is at 96%, with Altnagelvin, Antrim Area, and the Ulster Hospital operating beyond capacity.

There are also 142 confirmed and active outbreaks of Covid-19 in care homes.

The Western Trust has temporarily suspended all visits to its hospitals and facilities from midnight, due to high levels of Covid-19 transmission in the community, with only limited exceptions which are outlined on its website.

However, as outlined at a press conference in Dungannon on Thursday afternoon - where First Minister Arlene Foster and deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill were joined by PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne - there is a glimmer of hope.

The R number, or rate of infection, has fallen significantly in Northern Ireland - crucially to under one and estimated to be between 0.7 and 0.9.

It was previously estimated to have reached 1.8.

Meanwhile, the Stormont Executive has agreed new restrictions on international travel into Northern Ireland that will require arriving passengers to produce a negative Covid-19 test undertaken within 72 hours of departure for the region.