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Coronavirus: As Executive plans to unveil 'pathway to recovery', Foster and O'Neill see no early easing of lockdown

Northern Ireland's Deputy First Minister has said that a "pathway to recovery" from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic will be published next week.

But both Michelle O'Neill and First Minister Arlene Foster have played down hopes for an early relaxation of the lockdown restrictions.

Speaking at the daily Stormont press conference, Mrs Foster and Ms O’Neill stressed that, while the lockdown restrictions are being kept under constant review, there was little prospect of an end to social distancing until a vaccine for the virus is found.

There will be no single turning point. there will be no sweeping changes to the regulations

“We are not yet in the space where we can afford for people to be moving around any more than is absolutely necessary,” Ms O’Neill said.

"There will be no single turning point. there will be no sweeping changes to the regulations - but people want to have some hope for a post-Covid world."

Coronavirus Data Graphs

But she added: “Trust us, whenever we say we will come out the other side of this.

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Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill during the daily media broadcast in the Long Gallery at Parliament Buildings, Stormont on Friday, May 1 , 2020 

Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill during the daily media broadcast in the Long Gallery at Parliament Buildings, Stormont on Friday, May 1 , 2020 Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press E

Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill during the daily media broadcast in the Long Gallery at Parliament Buildings, Stormont on Friday, May 1 , 2020 Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.



“Next week we will publish our pathway to recovery. We will publish how we will be not calendar-led, but criteria led, as to how and where we can change the current situation.”

They also acknowledged there was concern about the increasing number of deaths in the care home sector - a pattern which was being replicated throughout the UK and the Republic of Ireland.

Mrs Foster said: “In terms of hospital deaths, the number is continuing to fall, but in terms of care home deaths, the figure is rising. That does concern us greatly.

“While the figures are alarming for us here in Northern Ireland, it unfortunately is the case right across the British Isles.

“If you look at our figures ( for care home deaths) they are 40,2 per cent, in the Republic of Ireland the figure is 45 per cent, in Scotland, 52 per cent and in Wales 48 per cent. . So it is a similar picture - and not a picture that we like.

Mrs Foster also welcomed the fact that health trust employees are now working in the independent sector.

"The Chief Executives of the Health Trusts have a corporate and indeed a moral responsibility to look after those patients in care homes," she said:

"We are pleased to see that a relationship is now developing that wasn't there in the past between the health trusts and the private sector.”

Asked about cross border cooperation on plans to end the lockdown, the First Minister said sharing information was critically important. She also emphasised the need for east-west co-operation between the UK and Ireland.


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