Northern Ireland’s health minister has warned of a potential “second wave” of coronavirus cases after an initial peak.
Robin Swann said expert modelling indicates the region will experience the peak of its first wave of COVID-19 between 6 April and 20 April, and that it will see 3,000 deaths before a possible second wave.
In a statement, he said the modelling outcome sets out a reasonable worst-case scenario, based on a number of assumptions including social distancing measures producing a 66% reduction in contacts outside the home and workplace.
In addition, it assumes 70% of symptomatic cases would adhere to case isolation.
The modelling team’s best judgement is that this would lead to a peak number of 180 coronavirus patients requiring ventilation and critical care beds during the first wave of the epidemic.
The peak number of COVID-19 hospital admissions would be 500 per week.
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Under this reasonable worst-case scenario, the projected number of cumulative COVID-19 deaths in Northern Ireland over 20 weeks of the epidemic would be 3,000.
In total, 28 people so far have died with COVID-19 in Northern Ireland, compared with 1,651 in England, 69 in Wales and 60 in Scotland.
Cabinet minister Michael Gove said the sharp rise in UK coronavirus deaths from coronavirus was “deeply shocking” but he could not say exactly when the peak of the epidemic would come.
The UK government is coming under increasing pressure over COVID-19 tests, as healthcare leaders warned there is “no immediate prospect” of mass NHS staff testing.
Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, which represents NHS trusts, said maximum testing capacity in the UK was currently “very constrained” at around 13,000 tests per day.
The focus is currently on testing patients in hospital to see if they have coronavirus, with NHS trusts told earlier in the week they should use up to 15% of any spare testing capacity for NHS staff.
UK health secretary Matt Hancock has now scrapped that cap, telling NHS hospital labs to use all spare capacity to test their frontline workers.