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Executive announces Northern Ireland cemeteries to be reopened

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First Minister Arlene Foster and deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill during the daily media broadcast in the Long Gallery at Parliament Buildings, Stormont on Friday.
Photo by Kelvin Boyes  / Press Eye.

First Minister Arlene Foster and deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill during the daily media broadcast in the Long Gallery at Parliament Buildings, Stormont on Friday. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press E

First Minister Arlene Foster and deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill during the daily media broadcast in the Long Gallery at Parliament Buildings, Stormont on Friday. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

Restrictions on visiting cemeteries in Northern Ireland are to be lifted, the First Minister has said.

Arlene Foster said it was still vital for the public to respect social distancing rules.

She made the announcement as the Public Health Authority confirmed a further 15 deaths were recorded in Northern Ireland, bringing the total to 278.

The true figures are likely to be higher, with the Northern Ireland Research and Statistics Agency recording 276 deaths up to April 17.

In the UK, a further 616 deaths have been recorded bringing the total to 18,738.

The Irish Republic has suffered another 28 deaths, a total of 794.

Mrs Foster and the Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill paid their respects to the DUP’s Edwin Poots and Jeffrey Donaldson who both lost their fathers, as well as to the former Sinn Fein MLA Oliver McMullan on the death of his 22-year-old daughter.

Restrictions are still in place for funeral arrangements, with no more than ten people allowed to attend and while maintaining social distancing.

Families are urged to make funeral arrangements over the phone, and not to advertise the details of the service.

Gatherings before and after funerals should also not be held until further notice.

“We both know that a lot is being asked of the bereaved as we grieve at this time,” Mrs Foster said.

On the latest death figures from NISRA, she said 93 of the 276 deaths that had occurred up until April 17 had taken place in care homes.

“That is more than a third of deaths, and it speaks very clearly to the importance of prioritising our care homes in their response to this pandemic”.

While welcoming extended plans for Covid-19 pandemic, she said it was not the time to speak about an exit strategy.

This included rejecting the Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis' suggestions that lockdown could eventually be lifted on a county by county basis.

“If our behaviour begins to change and people aren’t compliant with the public health measures then our actions could reverse what we have achieved so far," Mrs O'Neill said.

Belfast Telegraph