The number of Covid-19 deaths reported by the Department of Health has fallen significantly in the last week, latest figures reveal, while First Minister Arlene Foster said yesterday (Wednesday) that she hoped to be “long past” the final step of the Executive’s five-part plan for easing lockdown by December.

The figures released by the Department only relate to those who have died after receiving a positive Covid-19 test result and are not a true reflection of the total death toll.

The latest figures from the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) have revealed showed the deaths between April 25 and May 1 and revealed that over 60 per cent of Covid-19 related deaths in Northern Ireland occurred in care homes.

The NISRA stats also showed that over a five week period since the start of the pandemic there were 704 ‘excess deaths’ above the average for the corresponding period in previous years.

Figures from the Department of Health for the week beginning May 5 show 33 deaths, down from 71 for the previous week. There were two deaths reported on the Department’s Daily Dashboard yesterday.

The number of deaths in the Fermanagh and Omagh area has remained unchanged at 10 with the number of positive tests in the area rising to 78, which is the lowest of any of the 11 Council areas.

There have been 67 positive tests in the Fermanagh and Omagh area per 100,000 of the population. Neighbouring Council area, Derry City and Strabane have the next lowest rate with 108 positive tests per 100,000.

Belfast, which has the highest number of positive tests also has the highest rate of infection with 369 positive tests per 100,000 of the population.

It was also revealed this week by the Western Health and Social care Trust that as of Tuesday there were three inpatients at South West Acute Hospital receiving treatment following a positive test for Covid-19 while a further two inpatients were awaiting test results.

The news comes as the Northern Ireland Executive released details of a five-stage plan for the exiting of the current restrictions. There were no dates attached to the plan but Mrs. Foster said she hopes to be “long past” the final step of the Executive’s five-part plan for easing lockdown by December.

Frustration was expressed by some in the Northern Ireland business community on Tuesday when the plan was announced without any time frame.

Mrs. Foster made the comments to media during a visit to a primary school in Lisburn, Co Antrim yesterday.

“We will be past stage five by that time (December 5). I would be very much hopeful (of) that, unless there has been a second peak or a second wave of this,” she said, adding she hoped this was achieved “long before December 5”.

“When we begin to move we will be able to assess how the relaxation of the regulations are impacting on the R number and then if they have impacted not in too much of a way we can then wait a period of time and then move to the next relaxation.

“This is a step-by-step process, it is a graduated process, and at all times we have to look at the prospect - and I hope it’s not something that will happen - that we may have to move backwards again if the R number goes above one,” Mrs. Foster explained.