With nearly three weeks having passed since the last positive case of Covid-19 in the Fermanagh and Omagh District Council area, the total number of deaths in mainly hospital settings rose to 546 on Wednesday, according to the Department of Health, following the report of one Covid-19 related death.

The daily update also reported two positive cases after 853 individuals were tested, bringing the total number of positive tests to 4,873.

The statistics show that Fermanagh and Omagh is still the least affected area with 10 deaths confirmed, however the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) reported there were 16 deaths in the district up until June 12. The NISRA stats released last Friday also showed that overall there were 802 deaths in all settings in Northern Ireland up until June 12.

The area is also the lowest for positive tests with 86 out of 3,445 tests. There have been no positive tests in the area since June 4.

The biggest announcement this week came on Monday when the Executive gave the green light for up to six people to meet indoors from Tuesday

Indoor environments are still higher risk than outdoor meetings. Therefore this easement is accompanied by strong public health advice to limit the duration of visits; ensure good ventilation; maintain good hand hygiene; and practice social distancing where possible. The use of a face covering is also strongly advised.

The relaxation does not permit overnight stays and those who are medically shielding are strongly advised to continue following the advice that remains in place for that group until the shielding period is paused on July 31.

This easement makes provision for informal childcare arrangements between families and friends to resume.

Health Minister Robin Swann also announced that from July 6, those people required to shield will be able to meet up to six people outside their homes, as long as social distancing is strictly maintained.

In addition, people living alone and shielding can form a support bubble from July 6 with one other household.

With fresh guidance letters due to be issued to those impacted, Minister Swann observed: “It has undoubtedly been extremely difficult for those who are shielding. I have listened with great sympathy to what people have told us about feeling isolated and how they have missed their loved ones. I know these easements that take effect on 6 July will be welcome news to many as we move towards the pause in shielding from the end of July. However, I am also very conscious that there will be some who are apprehensive about this change. I would therefore, once again, repeat my call to everyone to continue to observe social distancing and to be considerate of the fact that the people you meet may have been shielding for many weeks.”

People shielding alone and forming a support bubble are not required to implement social distancing with their designated people and can allow them to visit, stay over and spend more time with them.

The second household can be of any size. Both households should not be part of more than one bubble and should continue to socially distance outside their bubble.

A roadmap promoting a Green Growth recovery from lockdown that develops Northern Ireland’s natural assets was also launched on Tuesday by the Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Minister Edwin Poots.