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Long warns over funerals backlog due to outbreak as she also announces suspension of prison visits

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She also announced that all prison visits here have been suspended immediately to prevent the spread of the virus

She also announced that all prison visits here have been suspended immediately to prevent the spread of the virus

She also announced that all prison visits here have been suspended immediately to prevent the spread of the virus

Funerals may soon face a backlog over coronavirus pressures, the Justice Minister has said.

Naomi Long said staff shortages during the peak weeks of the outbreak could see some families having to wait longer to bury or cremate loved ones.

She also announced that all prison visits here have been suspended immediately to prevent the spread of the virus.

Mrs Long said emergency legislation would allow Stormont to direct private providers, including funeral directors and crematoriums, to follow a central plan.

She said that she didn't want to create unnecessary anxiety, but noted the Health Minister had warned the worst case scenario could see 15,000 die here.

"We will do all we can to ensure dignity for the deceased and their family. We must also safeguard public health," Mrs Long said.

She added that the number of people attending funerals may also be restricted.

On stopping prison visits, she said many were in the high risk category but none have tested positive for coronavirus at present. She added that the Prison Service was working on measures to allow contact between prisoners and their families.

In a joint statement, the leaders of the four main Churches here said the plans to manage funerals under extreme pressure showed "concern, sensitivity and understanding" for families.

"Exceptional times call for temporary extraordinary measures to suit the needs of the hour, and forward planning is vital," they said.

"We commend the Justice Minister, Mrs Naomi Long, and the Department of Justice for their concern, sensitivity and understanding of the need to ensure dignity and respect for both the deceased and bereaved at this difficult time and in the weeks that lie ahead."

Belfast Telegraph