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Coronavirus: NI Executive to discuss lockdown easing


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Coronavirus: NI Executive to discuss lockdown easing

Image copyright Pacemaker The executive will meet this week to discuss “a co-ordinated plan” on how coronavirus restrictions in Northern Ireland can be eased, according to the communities minister.Deirdre Hargey said “a phased approach” would be needed and “we won’t just go back to how we were seven weeks ago”.On Friday, the Irish government announced…

Coronavirus: NI Executive to discuss lockdown easing

Belfast City CentreImage copyright
Pacemaker

The executive will meet this week to discuss “a co-ordinated plan” on how coronavirus restrictions in Northern Ireland can be eased, according to the communities minister.

Deirdre Hargey said “a phased approach” would be needed and “we won’t just go back to how we were seven weeks ago”.

On Friday, the Irish government announced a timeframe for relaxing restrictions, beginning 18 May.

Ms Hargey said Stormont had to provide “a clear public health message”.

She told BBC Radio Ulster’s Sunday with Steven Rainey programme that ministers were due to meet on Monday, Wednesday and likely Thursday this week as part of intensive work evaluating lockdown restrictions.

“We have to have that done within the legislation by 9 May, so we’d always said that we would start to review it this week.

“So I think that will start to materialise and be made public within this week or the week after.”

She added that the lockdown will not be completely lifted and that there will still be a “level of social distancing”.

“Obviously all of this is ensuring we don’t get a second wave or a second peak of this virus.”

Another spike in cases, she said, would do damage “that we probably couldn’t come back from”.

Ministers’ motivation, she added, “is to keep the death toll down as much as we can”.

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PA Media

Image caption

Deirdre Hargey said a phased easing of restrictions is needed to ‘minimise any future risk’

On Sunday, Department of Health figures recorded five further Covid-19 related deaths in Northern Ireland bringing the total up to 381.

In separate figures, statistics agency Nisra has recorded 393 deaths by 24 April.

This figure includes wider data based on the community and care homes.

Across the UK, there have been 28,131 reported deaths and 1,286 people have died in the Republic of Ireland.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar announced on Friday that his government would enact a five-stage approach to “reopen the country in a slow, phased way”.

This would culminate in a final phase by 10 August whereby larger social gatherings would be allowed, schools could begin to reopen and all workers could return to the workplace.

He said, however, that moving through each stage would be dependent on the success of the previous one.

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Ms Hargey said she would like to see more of an all-island approach, but similar stages will be needed in Northern Ireland also to “minimise any future risk”.

“Even if we start to open up the economy again, we need to look at things like ensuring that for workers, ahead of opening up their places of work, there’s a safe environment in which they can go in and operate within the workplace.

“So obviously the employers have responsibilities that they have to do.

“That can’t be done overnight, that needs to be planned.

“The guidance needs to be given out, so we are hopeful, we are going to move through this next week.”

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