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Murphy 'hopeful' road map plan to end NI lockdown will be announced on Thursday

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Finance Minister Conor Murphy during the daily media broadcast in the Long Gallery at Parliament Buildings, Stormont on Wednesday. Pacemaker

Finance Minister Conor Murphy during the daily media broadcast in the Long Gallery at Parliament Buildings, Stormont on Wednesday. Pacemaker

Finance Minister Conor Murphy during the daily media broadcast in the Long Gallery at Parliament Buildings, Stormont on Wednesday. Pacemaker

Finance Minister Conor Murphy has said he is “hopeful” a road map plan to end lockdown in Northern Ireland will be announced today.

He appeared at the daily Executive briefing with the Education Minister Peter Weir who said there was still no planned date for schools to reopen.

It comes as a further 14 deaths have been reported by the Department of Health, bringing the total to 418.

This figure is expected to be higher when the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency release statistics showing deaths in the community.

By April 24, NISRA reported a total of 393 deaths from coronavirus.

Covid-19 deaths in the UK are now the highest in Europe at 30,076 and the second highest in the world behind the United States at 70,847.

In the Republic of Ireland the latest figures report a total of 1,339 deaths.

Mr Murphy said the Executive had been working this week with the intention of making an announcement on easing lock down today.

"It is important to give, at the earliest possible time, a signal to people that there is light at the end of this tunnel and we will begin to move towards slightly more normal society again," he said.

He warned that getting the decision wrong would have "severe implications for peoples' lives".

Mr Murphy also set out how the Executive planned to spend over £1.1bn of Westminster funding to deal with Covid-19.

This includes over 19,400 payments through the small business grant scheme worth £194m.

A further £95m has been set aside for transport, with some funding already announced to support airports and ferry services.

£22m has been set aside to alleviate the “extreme financial pressure” felt by charities and social enterprises.

He announced that £6.75m of this would be used to support local hospices.

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Education Minister Peter Weir during the daily media broadcast in the Long Gallery at Parliament Buildings, Stormont on Wednesday. Pacemaker

Education Minister Peter Weir during the daily media broadcast in the Long Gallery at Parliament Buildings, Stormont on Wednesday. Pacemaker

Education Minister Peter Weir during the daily media broadcast in the Long Gallery at Parliament Buildings, Stormont on Wednesday. Pacemaker

On reopening schools, Mr Weir commented: “For many parents and carers, the timing of the reopening of schools is of crucial importance and there has been much speculation on this.

“Let me state clearly that there is no planned date for the reopening of schools for normal business.”

He said any decision would be guided by science and not date driven.

“Whenever schools do return, it’s unlikely this will be on a business as usual basis,” he said.

“There’s likely to be a phasing of the return of pupils alongside some form of remote learning. At all times the safety and well being of our staff and pupils will be our priority.”

Belfast Telegraph