Six further deaths and 2,143 new cases of COVID-19 reported in Northern Ireland

There have been 2,143 new cases of coronavirus reported in Northern Ireland in the last 24 hours, according to the Department of Health.

Six further deaths associated with the virus have also been confirmed.

In the past seven days, 7,100 people in the region have tested positive for COVID-19.

It comes as authorities in the UK gave the green light for the use of the Oxford University/AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine today.

Northern Ireland’s Health Minister Robin Swann said the approval “is extremely welcome news” and helps us to look forward to the New Year “with optimism and hope”.

He added that the vaccine programme will “transform the situation” regarding the pandemic in the North but warned that it “will take time” and “we need another big push to get through these next few months”.

The vaccination programme in Northern Ireland began on December 8th following approval for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.

The roll-out of the Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine will begin there on January 4th with the delivery of 50,000 doses already arranged.

To date, 80% of care homes have been visited by vaccination teams and in total, over 33,000 people have now been vaccinated in the North.

In the Republic yesterday, a 79-year-old Dublin grandmother became the first person to get the coronavirus vaccine.

Main image: A man wearing a mask walks in front of Belfast City Hall in Northern Ireland. Picture by: Liam McBurney/PA Wire/PA Images