'NI is one of the most locked down places in the world' says DUP MLA Chris Stalford - 'It's great to be back' says Michelle O'Neill who is no longer self-isolating and is back at Stormont - Pfizer and Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccines reduce the risk of hospital admission from Covid-19 by up to 85% and 94% respectively - SSE Arena to become vaccination centre from April

"Northern Ireland is one of the most locked down places in the world", according to DUP MLA Chris Stalford.

Monday, 22nd February 2021, 2:29 pm
Updated Monday, 22nd February 2021, 7:32 pm

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Belfast city centre has been largely deserted since the current lockdown was activated on December 26, 2020. (Photo: Presseye)

LIVE UPDATES: Coronavirus NI - ‘NI is one of the most locked down places in the world’ says DUP MLA Chris Stalford

Last updated: Monday, 22 February, 2021, 14:48

‘NI is one of the most locked down places in the world’ says DUP MLA Chris Stalford

Northern Ireland is one of the most locked down places in the world, according to DUP MLA Chris Stalford.

The MLA for South Belfast made the comment during a debate in the Assembly today concerning an SDLP motion about how Northern Ireland will recover and invest in its economy post-Covid-19.

The motion accused both Economy Minister and DUP MLA, Diane Dodds and Finance Minister and Sinn Fein MLA, Conor Murphy both of having "failed to produce a comprehensive COVID-19 recovery plan".

"The lockdown is costing the Northern Ireland economy £100m per week and we are seeing projections that up to 100,000 jobs are likely to be lost.

"In this context it is well and good tabling motions demanding recovery plans and greater action by one or two government ministers but week-in week-out, day-in day out, appearing on the media that lockdowns should continue - you cannot have it both ways," said Mr. Stalford.

"Northern Ireland is one of the most locked down places in the world and we should be doing everything within our power to get the economy opened up as quickly as possible within the constraints of the public health situation that confronts us.

"The same ones who are demanding almost eternal lockdown will be ones coming along and tabling motions like this to single out the Minister for the Economy and the Minister for Finance, I think people can see that for cynical behaviour and can see right through it.

"The economy is everything as it pays for all of the public sector and all the services we want to provide for our constituents."

The DUP did not support the motion.

Four Covid related deaths and 187 new infections in 24 hours

The Department of Health (DoH) has recorded four Covid-19 related deaths and 187 new infections in the last 24 hours.

The latest data means 2,079 individuals across Northern Ireland have tested positive for Covid-19 in the last 24 hours.

There have been 111,166 cases of coronavirus in Northern Ireland since the beginning of the pandemic.

The four additional deaths takes the death toll in Northern Ireland to 2,079.

There are 386 patients with Covid-19 in hospitals across Northern Ireland.

Deputy First Minister, Michelle O’Neill, is back in Stormont after her second period of self-isolation linked to Covid-19 came to an end

Deputy First Minister, Michelle O'Neill, is no longer self-isolating and has returned to Stormont.

In a short video clip shared with her almost 80,000 Twitter followers, Mr. O'Neill said: "It's great to be back and out of self isolation - it's been a tough number of weeks for both me and my family but I am glad to say that we are all doing well and are all recovering.

"Thank you so much everybody who sent us good wishes - we really appreciate it."

Ms. O'Neill continued: "I am very mindful of all those people out there who are self-isolating - it is very difficult and I really understand how challenging it is.

"I am back here today at Stormont where I be working towards a pathway to recovery to get us out of this lockdown."

SSE Arena to become vaccination centre from April

The SSE Arena in Belfast will be used as a vaccination centre for Northern Ireland’s adult population - writes Michael McHugh, PA.

It will open in April as a facility for those 60 and under, not already vaccinated through the health trust or GP programmes.

Health Minister Robin Swann said: “The mass vaccination centre at the SSE Arena signals yet another significant step forward in the rollout of the vaccination programme across Northern Ireland.

“The programme is continuing at pace and we are likely to begin vaccinating priority group 7, followed quickly by all other priority groups, starting in early April.

“This will see everyone aged 60 and under being offered the vaccine – a monumental next step in a population-wide vaccination programme.”

In addition to the SSE Arena, trusts will continue to operate large vaccination centres across Northern Ireland, with GPs running local vaccination clinics.

Access will then be opened further with community pharmacies providing vaccinations on the high street.

The vaccination programme recently opened to all carers aged 18 and over who are the main carer for someone elderly or disabled.

There is no definitive list of carers and there are many unpaid carers.

The minister said: “There are many elderly or disabled people who rely on carers to look after them and their welfare would be a risk if their carer took ill.

“We must continue to protect the most vulnerable from the effects of Covid.

“That includes doing the right thing and waiting your turn.”

Pfizer and Oxford/AstraZeneca reduce the risk of hospital admission from Covid-19 by up to 85% and 94% respectively

The Covid-19 vaccination programme has been linked to a substantial reduction in hospital admissions, experts have said.

Researchers examined coronavirus hospital admissions in Scotland among people who have had their first jab and compared them with those who had not yet received a dose of the vaccine.

Scientists from the University of Edinburgh, the University of Strathclyde and Public Health Scotland examined data on people who had received either the Pfizer/BioNTech jab or the one developed by experts at the University of Oxford with AstraZeneca.

By the fourth week after receiving the initial dose, the Pfizer and Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccines were shown to reduce the risk of hospital admission from Covid-19 by up to 85% and 94%, respectively, they found.

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