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As lockdown eases for bars, holiday lets, caravans and hotels, Foster says childcare scheme must be in place for people returning to work

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First Minster Arlene Foster (Liam McBurney/PA)

First Minster Arlene Foster (Liam McBurney/PA)

PA

First Minster Arlene Foster (Liam McBurney/PA)

First Minister Arlene Foster has said the Executive is meeting on Monday to discuss bringing forward the date which will allow hotels, bars and cafes to open in Northern Ireland on July 3.

Mrs Foster said the Executive "will be bringing forward the date" from an initial indication of July 20.

"Thankfully the spread of the disease has continued to fall and we're very pleased about that. Therefore, we are able to move in a flexible way," she said.

It comes after a plan was brought forward by Economy Minister Diane Dodds which is also thought to indicate caravans and holiday lets could be allowed open from June 26 if they are self contained units with their own toilet facilities.

Mrs Foster described the plans as an "open secret" but added the Executive must look at plans in a balanced way while taking into account medical and scientific advice.

Childcare is also expected to be discussed by on Monday after talks between some Stormont ministers on Friday.

Mrs Foster said the initial £12million scheme to support childcare facilities should be increased.

"It is very important that we have childcare in place for those people returning to work," she said.

"We very much need to see it open and supported and operating in a sustainable way.

"The money that has been put aside for childcare is probably not sufficient and I very much look forward to the Finance Minister providing us with more finances so that we can actually make sure that we have a childcare system that is sustainable going into the future."

She welcomed a review underway in London on the two metre rule but wouldn't be drawn on whether advice in Northern Ireland would be changed ahead of businesses in the tourism sector reopening.

"We have to ask ourselves are there other ways that minimise the risk of the disease spreading," she said, adding they have been looking at issues such as ventilation and face coverings.

They are countries across the world that have gone to one metre. We need to look and see how things are working in other countries," she said.

"If we are able to make the announcement today about the date, we want to continue to work with the sector to do all we can to help and assist," she said.

Belfast Telegraph