BBC News Ireland
The explosive problem of 'zombie' batteries - BBC News
Batteries that power mobile phones and other devices are causing fires because they are not disposed of properly.
By Ben MorrisTechnology of Business editor media captionAn explosion at a recycling centre The stress levels rocketed for Ian Scott-Browne earlier this month, when one of his colleagues radioed him and told him to call the fire brigade. Smoke had been spotted coming from one of the sorting machines at the Smallmead recycling centre, just outside Reading in southern England. He knew that a fire in one of the machines could be catastrophic as burning plastic, paper and cardboard could be quickly spread by conveyor belts which connect all the machines in the facility. "My concern was that we'd lost control of where the fire was," says Mr Scott-Browne, who is an operations manager at the recycling facility. For him there was a tense 15 minutes while firefighters, helped by some of his staff, urgently took heavy metal panels off the side of the sorting machines to track down and extinguish the fire. Small fires like that are surprisingly common at recycling centres. Somewhere in the UK there is one every day, on average. As a result the industry has become good at extinguishing them, but they would rather not deal with them at all, particularly as recycling centres are full of combustible materials. image captionLike all recycling centres Smallhead has piles of combustible materials The problem is that however attentive staff might be to the threat of fire, they can't control what people put in their recycling bins. The Environmental Services Association (ESA), which represents waste firms like Biffa, Veolia and Suez, says too many batteries are going into either recycling bins or black rubbish bags, where they are easily damaged by sorting equipment and start to burn - so-called "zombie" batteries. The ESA has launched a campaign called Take Charge which encourages people to dispose of batteries properly. "Unfortunately, the majority of batteries thrown away in the UK at the moment are not put in the proper recycling bins. Fires caused by carelessly discarded zombie batteries endanger lives, cause millions of pounds of damage and disrupt waste services," says Jacob Hayler, executive director of ESA. Lithium-ion batteries, which power mobile phones, tablets and toothbrushes, can be extremely volatile if damaged. CCTV footage taken at several recycling centres shows explosions sending flames and debris shooting across sorting areas. And those sorts of batteries are a growing menace. Between April 2019 and March 2020, lithium-ion batteries were suspected to have caused around 250 fires at waste facilities. That is 38% of all fires, up from 25% compared to the previous year, according to the latest data from ESA. In many cases the precise cause of a fire is never established but ESA says it is likely that lithium-ion batteries account for an even bigger proportion of fires. image captionWaste sorters have to watch for hidden batteries Paul Christensen, professor of pure and applied electrochemistry at the University of Newcastle, has deliberately damaged lithium-ion batteries in experiments to make them explode. The experiments are part of his work to help fire brigades tackle fires involving lithium-ion batteries. Prof Christensen is a "massive fan" of the batteries and points out that they are perfectly stable under normal conditions. However, he says that even small lithium-ion batteries, similar to the ones in your mobile phone, would explode "with a rocket flame" if punctured. His real concern though is with the much bigger batteries found in electric cars, or used to store electricity in homes and businesses. image copyrightGetty Images image captionBatteries for electric cars are made up of lots of individual cells They are generally divided into many small cells and managed by software that keeps the battery running smoothly. But if a car crashes and some of those cells are damaged, the chemicals inside can generate huge of amounts of heat, damaging and igniting other cells. "An electric vehicle will burn for much longer than an internal combustion vehicle. They give off potentially explosive and toxic fumes. They can reignite hours, days or weeks after the incident," says Prof Christensen. Electric cars are still relatively rare on the roads, but that will change in the coming years. In February the UK government brought forward a ban on selling new petrol, diesel or hybrid cars from 2040 to 2035 at the latest. Governments elsewhere in the world are also encouraging electric car sales - in China the government wants 25% of new cars sold to be electrified by 2025. "That means not just more electric vehicles, but the production facilities will get more and bigger... the storage facilities are going to get more and bigger," Prof Christensen says. He wants planning and safety regulations to take account of the risks of having so many more powerful batteries. He also wants better training for firefighters. Eurobat represents European Automotive and Industrial Battery Manufacturers. It says safety is always "high on the agenda", and is supporting a colour-coding system for batteries that would make sorting them easier. In the meantime the UK waste industry just wants people to be more careful when disposing of any battery. "We urge consumers to please recycle their batteries responsibly by using battery recycling points in shops and recycling centres, or a separate battery kerbside collection if available," ESA's Jacob Hayler says. Follow Technology of Business editor Ben Morris on Twitter
North Belfast trouble: Police and fire crews attacked - BBC News
Masonry, bricks and bottles were thrown at officers following trouble in north Belfast on Friday night.
image captionPolice said industrial bins had been set alight during the disturbances Police and fire crews have been attacked with missiles following trouble in north Belfast. Masonry, bricks and bottles were thrown at officers responding to disorder near the New Lodge area on Friday night. Police said a young boy was reportedly assaulted when rival groups were involved in an altercation. A 15-year-old boy was arrested on suspicion of common assault and riotous behaviour. He has since been released and cautioned. The police said it was extremely disappointing that officers had to deal with the actions of individuals who showed a complete disregard for the community. CCTV footage is being reviewed to identify those involved. Supt David Moore said they were called to the junction of North Queen Street and Duncairn Gardens, shortly before 20:00 BST. "Upon arrival of police in Spamount Street, officers had both masonry and other missiles thrown at them by a group of youths," he said. "Youths then set large, industrial bins alight in the area to attempt to block the road. "Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service attended the scene and had bricks and bottles thrown at them during the incident. "Damage was also reported to the grounds of a nearby nursery school by youths involved in the disorder." image captionPolice said they were called to the junction of North Queen Street and Duncairn Gardens on Friday night Supt Moore said no officer or firefighter was injured but that damage was caused to police vehicles, including wing mirrors and a smashed windscreen. "For officers and colleagues from Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service to come under attack in trying to keep people safe, means that vital resources are being removed from public use when they could be better utilised elsewhere," he added. "We will continue to work alongside local representatives and partner agencies, but it is disappointing that some people continue to disregard our repeated warnings. "Those people who choose to engage in criminal and anti-social behaviour must understand it is unacceptable and must stop. "People have a right to live in peace and to feel safe in their communities." Sinn Féin councillor JJ Magee said Friday night was "very bad for the residents of the New Lodge area". He said while a small amount of people were involved, they were "causing havoc" for residents. "This has been ongoing for months now, almost on a nightly basis," he said. "The residents have been getting tortured by young people who come from all over Belfast to this site where they then create trouble. "People have tried to move these young people on, but the abuse and the stick and then the threats that they take from these young people is scary."
Virapro hand sanitiser: NI health service checks after Irish safety recall - BBC News
There are warnings a batch of Virapro may cause skin problems, eye irritation and headaches.
image copyrightNodar Chernishev/Getty Images image captionTests were carried out on the sanitiser by the Irish Department of Agriculture Health officials are looking into whether hand sanitiser used by the NHS in NI is affected by a safety recall in the Republic of Ireland. Virapro hand sanitiser is being withdrawn from sale in the Republic on the Irish government's instructions. It warned prolonged use of the product may cause skin problems, eye and respiratory irritation and headaches. Stormont's Department of Health said checks are being carried to see if any stock delivered to NI is affected. It said the Northern Ireland's Health and Social Care Board "has not received any contact regarding recall". The Virapro safety warning was issued by the Irish Department of Agriculture after it carried out tests on the sanitiser. The tests showed that some of the product on sale contained methanol rather than ethanol. The department stated that prolonged use of the sanitiser "may cause dermatitis, eye irritation, upper respiratory system irritation and headaches". As a result, it has removed Virapro hand sanitiser from Ireland's biocidal product register, which outlines products that are legally allowed to be sold in Ireland. "This product may not remain on the market or be made available for use," the department said in a statement on Thursday night. "Members of the public are advised to stop using this sanitiser with immediate effect." It instructed the Dublin-based firm which sells the item to begin "an immediate recall of all product". Trade publications earlier this year reported that during the early stages of the pandemic, when there were worldwide shortages of hand sanitiser, Virapro delivered orders to both the Health Service Executive in the Republic of Ireland and the NHS in Northern Ireland. At the time, the Dublin-based firm said it had to charter extra planes in order to fulfil both orders. Stormont's Department of Health confirmed to BBC News NI that "the Virapro product has been procured for use in Northern Ireland". "At this stage we are unable to confirm if any product supplied is affected," its spokesman said. "At this point Health and Social Care Northern Ireland has not received any contact regarding recall and is initiating contact with its supplier to establish if any product supplied to Northern Ireland is affected." He added: "If product used in NI is found to be affected, then as with any product found to be defective or sub-standard it will be withdrawn from use." Virapro is based in Raheny in County Dublin and its hand sanitiser is used widely in schools in the Republic of Ireland. In a statement, the company said it was "very concerned" by the issue and was "grateful to the department for its diligence". "Following discussions with the department, albeit at the time their concerns had not been confirmed, nonetheless we immediately sealed the product off in our warehouses to prevent any distribution of this batch." The firm said it was currently contacting its customers and "providing a full replacement for that product". "We have been in contact with the manufacturer who is also investigating the matter," it added.
Coronavirus: Schools in NI shut as two-week closure begins - BBC News
The figures come as NI's schools face a two-week closure aimed at curbing the spread of coronavirus.
media captionPupils and staff at Belfast Model School for Girls react to school closures Almost 1,500 positive cases of coronavirus have been recorded in Northern Ireland schools since their August reopening, Peter Weir has said. The education minister revealed the figure on the same day that schools began a two-week closure, aimed at curbing the spread of Covid-19. Mr Weir said the figure of 1,491 cases was "the overall school population" - taking in teachers, staff and students. It is a cumulative figure from 24 August to 13 October, he added. The minister said there are about 333,000 students at schools in Northern Ireland and about 19,000 staff. He said the number of positive tests worked out at around 0.4% of the school population, which also means about one in every 250 pupils and staff members. The education minister said schools had mostly had cases of single individuals testing positive. In early September a Department of Education official told Stormont's education committee there had been 88 Covid-19 cases in 64 schools during the first two weeks of term. The education minister has now told assembly members there were 1,491 positive cases of individuals within schools during roughly the first seven weeks of term. But that statistic still leaves a lot of questions unanswered. How many individual schools have been affected and how many of those cases are pupils and how many are staff? How many schools have had to send pupils home to self-isolate for 14 days as a result of a positive case and how many pupils in total have been out of school for two weeks as a result? The latest attendance rate for pupils is 93.7% but those at home self-isolating are still marked as present if they're receiving work, so the rate tells us little about the level of disruption Covid-19 is causing in schools. "I hope the Public Health Agency will be in a position fairly soon to give a more detailed figure," he told assembly members on Monday. The two-week closure of Northern Ireland's schools, which includes the half-term holiday, is set to be reviewed on 2 November. Restrictions imposed on businesses in Northern Ireland by the executive came in at 18:00 BST on Friday. Restaurants and cafes are now limited to takeaway and delivery services for four weeks. media captionBBC News NI's Jordan Kenny explains Northern Ireland's new Covid-19 restrictions Restrictions have also been imposed on hotels, the beauty industry and on indoor and contact sport. A further six Covid-19 related deaths have been reported in Northern Ireland by the Department of Health, bringing its total to 621. The department also reported an additional 820 positive cases of the virus, meaning there have been 28,040. There were 3,869 individuals tested in the previous 24 hours. image captionRestaurants and cafes closed their doors to sit-in customers from 18:00 BST on Friday in NI Mr Weir has vowed to oppose any move to extend the school closures in Northern Ireland beyond two weeks. The minister said there had been little evidence that schools were significantly contributing to rising Covid-19 numbers. Sinn Féin's Conor Murphy said his party would have been prepared to back a longer closure, but they were "content" with the decision. A fund to help businesses forced to shut due to increased coronavirus restrictions is due to open for applications on Monday. The Department of Finance expects the scheme to cost £35m pounds over four weeks. The fund is only available to businesses forced to close or where the use of premises is restricted and is an extension of the help already in place for businesses in the Derry City and Strabane council area. Police made a number of arrests and handed out fixed penalty notices at a protest against the restrictions at Stormont on Sunday. As well as the closure of the hospitality sector (apart from deliveries and takeaways), off-licences and supermarkets are not to sell alcohol after 20:00 and fast-food and takeaway premises are to close at 23:00. Driving instructors must stop offering lessons and as a result, the Department of Infrastructure has also decided to suspend driving tests. Other restrictions laid out in the guidance are:
- No indoor sport or organised contact sport involving mixing of households, other than at elite level
- No mass events involving more than 15 people (except for allowed outdoor sporting events where the relevant number for that will continue to apply)
- Close-contact services such as hairdressers and beauticians to close - apart from those relating to the continuation of essential health interventions and therapeutics
- Mobile hairdressers and make-up artists - also classed as close-contact services - prohibited from working in homes
- Gyms to remain open for individual training but no classes permitted
- Places of worship to remain open but face coverings mandatory when entering and exiting
- Wedding ceremonies and civil partnerships to be limited to 25 people with no receptions. This will be implemented on Monday 19 October
- Funerals to be limited to 25 people with no pre or post-funeral gatherings
- Hotels to close, with exemptions for them to offer rooms to essential workers such as workers who need hotels for work-related purposes and "staff on the front line battling Covid"
- Work from home unless unable to do so
- Universities and further education to deliver distance learning to the maximum extent possible with only essential face to face learning where that is a necessary and unavoidable part of the course
- No unnecessary travel should be undertaken
Covid: UK at 'tipping point', top scientist warns - BBC News
England's deputy chief medical officer says the country will see more deaths over the coming weeks.
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Planet Mars is at its 'biggest and brightest' - BBC News
The Red Planet is unmissable in the night sky right now as its orbit aligns with Earth's.
By Jonathan AmosBBC Science Correspondent image copyrightdamianpeach.com image captionIn all its glory: Mars pictured by Damian Peach on 30 September Get out there and look up! Mars is at its biggest and brightest right now as the Red Planet lines up with Earth on the same side of the Sun. Every 26 months, the pair take up this arrangement, moving close together, before then diverging again on their separate orbits around our star. Tuesday night sees the actual moment of what astronomers call "opposition". All three bodies will be in a straight line at 23:20 GMT (00:20 BST). "But you don't have to wait until the middle of the night; even now, at nine or 10 o'clock in the evening, you'll easily see it over in the southeast," says astrophotographer, Damian Peach. "You can't miss it, it's the brightest star-like object in that part of the sky," he told BBC News. Even though this coming week witnesses the moment of opposition, it was Tuesday of last week that Mars and Earth actually made their closest approach in this 26-month cycle. A separation of 62,069,570km, or 38,568,243 miles. That's the narrowest gap now until 2035. At the last opposition, in 2018, Earth and Mars were just 58 million km apart, but what makes this occasion a little more special for astrophotographers in the Northern Hemisphere is the Red Planet's elevation in the sky. It's higher, and that means telescopes don't have to look through quite so much of the Earth's turbulent atmosphere, which distorts images. Experienced practitioners like Damian use a technique called "lucky imaging" to get the perfect shot. They take multiple frames and then use software to stitch together the sharpest view. Damian's picture at the top of this page shows up clearly the "Martian dichotomy" - the sharp contrast between the smooth lowland plains of the Northern Hemisphere and the more rugged terrain in the Southern Hemisphere. Evident too is Mars' carbon dioxide ice cap at the southern pole. The image was captured using a 14-inch Celestron telescope. "That's quite a serious bit of equipment; it's not something you get on a whim," says Damian. "But even a telescope half that size will show up all the major features on Mars quite easily. And if you've got a good pair of binoculars, you'll certainly be able to make out that it's actually a planet and not a star." It's around opposition that space probes are launched from Earth to Mars. Obviously - the distance that needs to be travelled is shorter, and the time and energy required to make the journey is less. Three missions are currently in transit, all of which were sent on their way in July: The United Arab Emirates's Hope orbiter; China's Tianwen orbiter and rover; and the Americans' Perseverance rover. Europe and Russia had hoped to despatch their ExoMars "Rosalind Franklin" rover, too, but they missed the launch window and will now have to wait until late 2022. That's the penalty you pay when the planets align only every 26 months. Hope, Tianwen and Perseverance are all on course to arrive at Mars in February. In 2003, Mars made its closest approach to Earth around opposition in nearly 60,000 years - a separation of just 56 million km. The distance between the two at opposition can be over 100 million km, as happened in 2012. The variation is a consequence of the elliptical shape of the orbits of both Mars and Earth. [email protected] and follow me on Twitter: @BBCAmos
Coronavirus: Northern Ireland announces 726 new Covid-19 cases - BBC News
There has also been one death recorded in the most recent 24-hour period.
Image copyrightPA MediaImage caption Northern Ireland has recorded its second-highest daily total of coronavirus cases A further 726 cases of Covid-19 in Northern Ireland have been announced by the Department of Health. It is the second-highest number of daily cases in Northern Ireland, following the high of 934 on Friday. There has also been one further death recorded in the past 24 hours, and the total number of hospital inpatients is 65. The total number of Covid-19 related deaths in Northern Ireland now stands at 583. The figures show there are nine intensive care beds occupied by Covid-19 patients. Across Northern Ireland, the infection rate in Derry City and Strabane has increased to 478.5 per 100,000 of the population. The rate in the Newry, Mourne and Down council area is up to 268.6 while Belfast has also risen to 192, and the area with the next highest prevalence is Mid Ulster at 171.5. On Friday, Health Minister Robin Swann told BBC News NI he was "floored" by that day's figures. "It is something we thought we would possibly have to do over the winter. It now looks like October is going to be our Covid winter," he said. He said the rise in cases means Belfast's Nightingale hospital may need reactivated within weeks.
Brexit: EU says window to resolve NI part of deal rapidly closing - BBC News
NI ministers took part in a meeting, which comes as the UK and EU continue talks to reach a trade deal.
Image copyrightSteve Parsons/PA Wire The "window of opportunity" for the UK and EU to resolve how to implement the NI part of the Brexit deal is "rapidly closing," the EU has said. A joint UK-EU committee held its third meeting on Monday. The Stormont Executive's junior ministers Gordon Lyons and Declan Kearney took part by video conference. The meeting came at the start of the latest round of talks about the UK's future relationship with the EU. European Commission Vice-President Maro efovi said he had reiterated the "urgent need" for the UK and EU to accelerate their work in the coming weeks. "Many difficult issues remain and the UK position is far apart from what the EU can accept," he told a press conference in Brussels after the meeting. Mr efovi said the two sides also remain at odds on whether NI businesses will be required to complete a piece of administration known as exit summary declaration forms for goods going to the rest of the UK. The prime minister has repeatedly promised no new paperwork for trade moving from NI-GB. Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove is in Brussels for the talks about the UK's future relationship with the European Union. The Brexit deal, which was agreed in October, treats Northern Ireland differently from other parts of the UK through what is known as the Northern Ireland protocol. What is the Northern Ireland Protocol? The Northern Ireland Protocol is designed to prevent a hard border in Ireland - or any new checks at the Irish border. It does this by effectively keeping Northern Ireland in the EU's single market for goods. This will mean products entering Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK will be subject to new checks and control - the so-called Irish Sea border. However, the precise nature of these checks needs to be agreed by the EU and UK and are being negotiated in parallel with the trade talks, which Prime Minister Boris Johnson wants concluded by the next European Council meeting on 15 October. But the UK and EU have been engaged through the joint committee to work out the nature and extent of the checks on goods after the transition period. The protocol is due to come into force on 1 January 2021 - the first day of the new EU-UK relationship. The last set of talks between the two sides ended acrimoniously when the UK government introduced the Internal Market Bill to Parliament. The bill would give UK ministers the power to reduce the amount of paperwork that Northern Ireland firms have to fill in on goods bound for Great Britain, or to remove the need for them entirely. It would also allow the UK to narrow the scope of EU state aid rules in Northern Ireland. It is controversial because it would change the terms of the Northern Ireland Protocol, a crucial part of the legally-binding Withdrawal Agreement agreed by both sides prior to the UK's exit from the EU. The bill has not been withdrawn and is set to be debated by MPs on Tuesday. Mr efovi said he had also repeated the EU's demand for the UK to withdraw the legislation. Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) Junior Minister Gordon Lyons, who took part on behalf of First Minister Arlene Foster, said he had "emphasised the importance of the UK internal market and the need to secure a deal that works for businesses, citizens and consumers in Northern Ireland". Sinn Féin's Junior Minister Declan Kearney took the place of Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill, who it is understood could not take part in the meeting due to illness. Mr Kearney said he had made clear to the committee that Downing Street's Internal Market Bill - which would allow the UK to override parts of the original Brexit deal relating to NI - "does not command the support of the majority of political parties in Ireland, north or south". He insisted that the Northern Ireland protocol must be "fully implemented". Formal UK-EU negotiations will also resume on Tuesday as the two sides attempt to agree a post-Brexit trade deal. Last week, the UK said a lot of work remains before a deal can be reached. Trader Support Service Businesses in Northern Ireland can now sign up to the system to help them deal with the new Irish Sea Border. The Trader Support Service (TSS) will effectively see the government paying customs agents on behalf of businesses. It is required as a consequence of the Northern Ireland part of the Brexit deal. From 1 January, goods entering Northern Ireland from Great Britain will need customs declarations. The government had said up to £355m is to be spent on the system - but businesses could not access it until now.
Coronavirus: NI records highest number of new Covid-19 cases - BBC News
Northern Ireland's department of health reported one further death and 319 positive cases on Saturday.
Image copyrightReutersImage caption There have now been 10,542 positive Covid-19 tests in Northern Ireland NI has recorded its highest daily total for the number of positive Covid-19 tests since the Department of Health rolled out its current testing model. A further 319 were reported on Saturday, bringing the total during the pandemic to 10,542. The department also revealed that one more person has died with the virus, bringing the total number of deaths it has recorded to 578. There are five Covid-19 patients in intensive care units across NI. In the last seven days, 1,396 people have tested positive for the virus. The number of positive cases documented in a 24-hour period surpasses Friday's record of 273. On the same day, the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (Nisra) reported there were eight coronavirus-linked deaths registered in NI last week. That was one more than the previous week, according to the latest bulletin from the agency. In total, more than 335,000 people have been tested since the pandemic started.
Coronavirus: Virus gaining momentum again in NI, says Robin Swann - BBC News
The 14-day incidence rate for new cases in Northern Ireland has risen from 64 per 100,000 to 85.9.
Image copyrightKelvin Boyes/Press EyeImage caption Health Minister Robin Swann says there is a "narrow window" to suppress the virus Coronavirus is "gaining momentum" again in Northern Ireland and there is a "narrow window" to suppress it, Health Minister Robin Swann has said. Mr Swann said the 14-day incidence rate for new cases here had risen from 64 per 100,000 to 85.9. New restrictions banning household visits took effect on Tuesday evening. NI's chief medical officer Dr Michael McBride warned NI could see 500 new cases per day by October if rules are flaunted. 'Lives depend on it' Speaking at a press briefing at Stormont, Dr McBride urged "everyone to pause and think about that". "It doesn't have to be like that but is dependent on what we all do now. "I ask for six months more commitment from you - as if your life depends on it - because your life and the lives of others does depend on it." The health minister said he challenged "anyone who still doubts the seriousness of this virus to sit across the table" from a family bereaved by Covid-19. Hospital visits restricted Mr Swann confirmed that hospital visits in Northern Ireland are to be restricted to one family member per patient, once a week. It is an extension of the localised restrictions brought in earlier this month that would see visits reduced in certain postcode areas. The minister said there will be new guidance issued around exemptions, in particular circumstances. Earlier he met the family of a cancer patient who died at Craigavon Area Hospital after an outbreak of the virus. Image copyrightPacemakerImage caption Six deaths have been linked to the outbreak at the haematology ward in Craigavon Hospital John Fleming, 79, from Loughgilly, County Armagh, was being treated for bone cancer when the virus entered the hospital's haematology ward last month. The father of four tested positive on the day before he was to be discharged and died on 3 September. Mr Fleming's family had written an open letter to the minister raising questions about the outbreak at the hospital. 'We need answers' Speaking after the meeting, Mr Fleming's widow Ann said: "It's tough, extremely tough, but we don't want this to happen to anyone else. "It's no good standing up in your big shiny office saying we didn't do this and didn't do that. "That's not on. We need answers." Mr Fleming's daughter Yvonne said she believed the minister had "listened intently" to their concerns. Mr Swann said the outbreaks of coronavirus in the Southern Trust shows "the cruelty of this virus". Image copyrightPacemakerImage caption Five patients have died as a result of a Covid-19 outbreak in Daisy Hill Hospital's male medical ward Eleven patients have died following outbreaks of coronavirus at Daisy Hill and Craigavon Area hospitals. A level three Serious Adverse Incident (SAI) investigation is to be carried out across the Southern Trust, which operates the hospitals. It has also been confirmed that an SAI investigation into the deaths of two patients at Antrim Area Hospital following an outbreak in April is being escalated to level three. Both patients were related and the Northern Trust said the family was consulted about the move. Mr Swann announced that Dr Guduru Gopal Rao, a microbiologist in London North West University NHS Trust, will lead the independent review into the handling of the Southern Trust outbreaks. "I'm on record as saying lessons need to be learned," added the minister. Image caption The biggest increase in cases in the last 24 hours has occurred in Belfast council area The latest Department of Health statistics show there have been no further coronavirus-related deaths and 220 more positive cases. The death toll remains at 577. The dashboard also shows 41 people are in hospital with Covid-19, six in intensive care units. Two deaths were recorded in the Republic of Ireland and 234 new cases of coronavirus were reported in the past 24 hours. 'Take action' Dr Michael McBride said he understood that families of patients who had died in the Southern Trust wanted "answers to reasonable questions". He said the Severe Adverse Incident (SAI) review can "seem protracted and prolonged". "What I can say is to provide those answers requires complex and detailed examination of complicated factors which may have contributed. "It's important work to be undertaken throughout and we will undertake it and complete it as quickly as possible. "Sadly with transmission levels within the community, we will see further outbreaks in hospitals and care homes and that's why it's crucially important we take action now to suppress levels." Dr McBride also said that the "virus hasn't weakened" and urged the public to adhere to the latest restrictions and take personal responsibility. "It's really up to all of us - you will choose to follow or not and by your decisions or actions, not only take risks upon yourself but choose to expose others. "I ask you now not to give up, do not be deflected - do not lose your commitment." He added that if Northern Ireland did not take the "narrow window of opportunity" to reduce the spread of the virus, there would be "much worse to come".