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Coronavirus updates: Stormont planning mitigation package as PM urges people to avoid non-essential contact

  • Stormont Executive planning mitigation package including rates relief
  • People across the UK asked to avoid non-essential contact and travel
  • Education Minister Peter Weir says NI schools are not closing now
  • 52 positive test results in NI to date, including a Belfast pupil
  • Restaurants, pubs and venues are shutting down across NI
  • Airlines under pressure as flights are cancelled and EU puts forward proposal for 30-day travel ban
  • Queen's University Belfast to cease face-to-face lectures from Wednesday
  • Balmoral Show and Belfast Marathon postponed until August and September respectively

The Stormont Executive has agreed to introduce a package of measures in the coming weeks to mitigate against the worst effects of the coronavirus outbreak.

Proposals include rates relief for businesses, the continuation of free meals after schools close and steps to protect the most vulnerable, specifically the elderly and the homeless.

The decision was made at an Executive meeting on Monday night, after the meeting deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill repeated her call for schools to close immediately.

It comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged people to avoid non-essential contact with others and travel during a press briefing on Monday.

However, he stopped short of closing schools, instead asking people to avoid pubs, clubs and other social gatherings.

Mr Johnson said everyone should work from home if they can.

The PM also said people with symptoms, or living with someone with symptoms should self-isolate for 14 days.

We think at the moment, on balance, it’s much better if we can keep schools open for all sorts of reasons Boris Johnson

Mr Johnson said he is confident people in Northern Ireland are being protected from coronavirus as well as those in the Republic of Ireland, despite the decision not to close schools.

This position was reiterated in a statement from Northern Ireland's education minister in a statement on Monday afternoon.

Peter Weir said he understands the concerns of schools and parents and said he wants to reassure them his department is working with partners in the education and health sector as well as across government.

It's after Belfast's 10 special schools closed indefinitely from Monday as principals sought guidance from the Education Authority (EA) on the health and safety issues concerning children with special needs in relation to the virus.

Several schools have taken the situation into their own hands and announced they will shut their doors.

Queen's University Belfast has said all lectures will cease from Wednesday and course material will be delivered remotely.

Arlene Foster said school closures could last up to 16 weeks when introduced.

Meanwhile, Health Minister Robin Swann confirmed on Monday that there have been 52 positive test results for coronavirus in Northern Ireland - an increase of seven from Sunday. 54 new cases were confirmed in the Republic of Ireland.

A growing number of bars, restaurants and venues in Northern Ireland have also announced their temporary closure in a bid to stem the spread of the virus. A joint statement from the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) and Hospitality Ulster said jobs and livelihoods could "go to the wall" as a result.

Check out our live blog to see how the latest coronavirus developments unfolded:

Belfast Telegraph