Health Minister 'doesn't know' what system will look like in a week's time

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by Rebecca Black, PA

Northern Ireland's health minister has said he "doesn't know" what the system will look like in a week's time.

Robin Swann and the region's chief medical officer Dr Michael McBride were questioned by MLAs about increasing coronavirus testing, procuring more protective equipment for healthcare staff and ventilators.

The minister responded by saying the focus is currently on getting front line support to those people suffering from coronavirus.

Seven people who tested positive for Covid-19 have died in Northern Ireland, according to the Public Health Agency.

Some 209 cases have been confirmed following the testing of 3,372 individuals so far.

Stormont's health committee chairman Colm Gildernew asked the minister about plans for community testing sites.

Mr Swann said: "We're not at a point where we are going to open community testing sites.

"We're getting front line support to those people presenting with that mid-range symptom of Covid-19," he said, adding: "we're not at that stage yet as we don't have that capacity".

Dr McBride said next week the health service will be testing 1,100 people per day.

He told the committee that there have been discussions about making community testing available at a later stage.

Mr Swann also told the committee that there are 650 ventilators "currently on their way" to Northern Ireland.

"I don't know what the health service will look like in a week's time," he added.

"The surge plans are in place to do what we have to do.

"To give any sort of commitment now that we will return 100% to where we were two months ago - I can't give it. I won't give it, because I can't stand over it."

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