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Coronavirus Northern Ireland: Michelle O'Neill outlines Executive's 'tentative' roadmap out of lockdown amid two deaths and 149 new cases

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Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill in the chamber at Parliament Buildings, Stormont to announce Northern Ireland's plan for easing the coronavirus lockdown. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye

Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill in the chamber at Parliament Buildings, Stormont to announce Northern Ireland's plan for easing the coronavirus lockdown. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye

Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye

Parliament Building at Stormont in east Belfast where the Northern Ireland Executive has revealed its plan to ease out of the lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye

Parliament Building at Stormont in east Belfast where the Northern Ireland Executive has revealed its plan to ease out of the lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye

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Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill in the chamber at Parliament Buildings, Stormont to announce Northern Ireland's plan for easing the coronavirus lockdown. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye

Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill is outlining "tentative" preparatory steps towards the lifting of coronavirus restrictions.

The Executive met on Tuesday morning and signed off on a plan at around lunchtime.

MLAs are currently being briefed on the roadmap in the Assembly by the first ministers. However, the Executive's plan has been leaked to the Belfast Telegraph.

Ms O'Neill told MLAs it was time to look forward in a hopeful way but recognising the huge risks which remained.

Coronavirus Data Graphs

She said: "Great care is still needed.

"That is why the Executive has agreed today a careful, cautious and hopeful approach to existing restrictions and we will be publishing that later today for everyone to see."

Ms O'Neill said keeping restrictions in place will only be done if that is necessary and proportionate to the threat from Covid-19.

She said ministers would work with the Irish Government and administrations in Great Britain.

It comes as a further 149 news cases of coronavirus were reported and two further deaths taking the toll to 2,057. Hospitals are operating at 94%.

It shows a five-stage process moving from lockdown to easing of restrictions for nine different sectors.

They include home and community, sport and leisure, worship and ceremonies, education and young people, culture and entertainment, hospitality, work, retail and finally travel and tourism.

Each sector will emerge from lockdown in stages. They are: lockdown; cautious first steps; gradual easing; further easing; and then preparing for the future.

The documents - Moving Forward: The Executive's Pathway out of Restrictions - seen by the Belfast Telegraph do not include dates, or indeed any detail on what will be required to progress through the various stages.

It includes various scenarios on what might happen and when - for example when you may be able to celebrate a birthday with friends, play five-a-side with friends, begin a return to the work place get a hair cut and even when you can share a dance at a wedding to a live band.

Northern Ireland's current lockdown ends on April 1. That now is to be reviewed on March 16.

Under the plan for retail, all shops can open and close contact services can resume under stage three of the plan: gradual easing.

Schools would also fully return in the same stage.

However, it is thought each sector could progress through the stages at different speeds. So while education may be in stage four, retail could remain in stage two. That is to balance the impact of a change with the rate of the virus's transmission.

Ministers had said decisions on when to move between stages based on scientific and medical evidence, not the calendar.

Keeping the reproductive rate of the virus below 1 will be a guiding principle, it is understood and the Executive will review the progress of the pathway every month.

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Belfast Telegraph


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