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Coronavirus: Executive rules out any indoor meetings of immediate family

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Indoor meetings between immediate family members remain off-limits in Northern Ireland, the Executive has determined. Photo by Philip Magowan / Press Eye

Indoor meetings between immediate family members remain off-limits in Northern Ireland, the Executive has determined. Photo by Philip Magowan / Press Eye

Philip Magowan / PressEye

Indoor meetings between immediate family members remain off-limits in Northern Ireland, the Executive has determined. Photo by Philip Magowan / Press Eye

Indoor meetings between immediate family members remain off-limits in Northern Ireland, the Executive has determined.

It had been thought that ministers may move to further loosen the lockdown restrictions, allowing people to visit close relatives inside homes, where social distancing is possible.

Earlier this week First Minister Arlene Foster had said the Executive would "look again" at permitting indoor meetings.

However, speaking at Thursday's Covid-19 briefing, Education Minister Peter Weir confirmed the Executive had decided such a move was still too risky.

"I think it's wrong for people to have a level of expectation," the minister said. "What we will do is, we will look at the evidence and when the time is right on specific measures we will take those steps. All issues will be up for consideration.

"There is a road map on a range of subjects in terms of easing lockdown. But what we have also said is that it is not simply a question of everything moving to stage one, everything moving to stage two ... and so consequently, within particular actions that can take place, they will take place at different speeds."

Mr Weir stressed the Executive's concern for public safety.

"I think we are acutely aware of balancing out public safety with the real desire for families to reunite where possible in a safe and controlled manner," he added. "That is something I think which is under consideration by the Executive."

A series of lockdown relaxations were announced in Northern Ireland on Monday, which included groups of up to six people who do not share a household being allowed to meet outdoors.

On Thursday health officials confirmed another seven deaths here linked to the virus. The official death toll has reached 501, but this does not include most deaths outside hospitals.

In the Republic of Ireland, meanwhile, 12 more people with Covid-19 have died. There have now been 1,583 Covid-19-related deaths south of the border, according to Irish health officials.

A further 338 people in the UK with Covid-19 have died in hospitals, care homes and the wider community, taking the total to 36,042, according to the latest figures from the UK Department of Health.

Belfast Telegraph