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Coronavirus Northern Ireland: Lockdown extended and update on schools next week, says Education Minister

  • Lockdown extended until March 5
  • The restrictions will be reviewed on or before February 18
  • Death toll rises to 1,692
  • 21 deaths and 732 new cases
  • Scroll down for live updates

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Lockdown restrictions across Northern Ireland have emptied streets. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye

Lockdown restrictions across Northern Ireland have emptied streets. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye

Minister Peter Weir

Minister Peter Weir

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Lockdown restrictions across Northern Ireland have emptied streets. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye

Education Minister Peter Weir hopes the Executive can update schools “next week” on whether or not they can reopen.

Northern Ireland’s schools are due to open their doors after the mid-term break in February, but that was thrown into doubt after First Minister Arlene Foster confirmed that the current lockdown regulations have been extended until March 5.

Speaking alongside deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill during Thursday’s Covid-19 press conference in Dungannon, Mrs Foster explained that the regulations will be reviewed again on or before February 18.

Ms O’Neill added that “there may well need to be” further restrictions after March 5.

Coronavirus Data Graphs

Education Minister Mr Weir explained that the health paper that was discussed by the Executive on Thursday afternoon “didn’t directly mention schools”.

“Everything is a level of overall contribution and we saw the surge which took place particularly around the Christmas period,” he told BBC Radio Ulster’s Evening Extra. “I don’t think that was particularly linked in with schools.

“What happens directly within schools has a limited amount of impact on the virus but what it does have is an element of behavioural aspects, particularly around freeing up adults to be in other places.

“I think we do need to weight up all the factors. The overriding aim should ultimately be to have children directly in schools getting that face to face learning.

“That is best for their future but that has got to be weighed up against the overall impact that is there in terms of contacts and how that impacts in on the wider public health considerations.”

DUP leader Mrs Foster stated earlier that there was “plenty of time” to provide clarity for schools and parents.

It comes after another 21 coronavirus-related deaths have been reported here.

The Department of Health reports 16 died in the 24 hours up to 10am on Thursday. Another five died previously. The death toll has risen to 1,692.

Another 732 people have tested positive for the virus.

In the past seven days 5,563 people have tested positive. That is down on the 7,942 the previous week.

In total 98,351 people have been confirmed to have caught the disease since testing began following the outbreak in Northern Ireland.

There are 806 coronavirus patients in hospitals, down on the 987 a week ago. A total of 70 people are in intensive care.

Hospital are operating at 96% occupancy with four - the Royal, Ulster, Causeway and Antrim - operating beyond capacity.

There are 134 confirmed outbreaks of coronavirus in hospitals.

Meanwhile, the chief Executive of the Belfast Trust has made an emotional apology to the hundreds of cancer patients whose operations have been cancelled.

"We cannot treat everyone the way we would want to treat them, at the moment," she said.

“None of this is easy, none of us wanted to be here ... there is moral distress amongst our staff, but that is nothing in comparison to the anguish and devastation those families are facing, particularly those who had a date for surgery which was then ripped out as we had to prepare for Covid,” she said.

“So, we are doing all we can."

Belfast Telegraph


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