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Special free school meal payments to be extended


Support: Arlene Foster also said the test and trace system was to be scaled up

Support: Arlene Foster also said the test and trace system was to be scaled up

Support: Arlene Foster also said the test and trace system was to be scaled up

Families whose children receive free school meals are to receive a special payment to help them over the two-week school closure period, First Minister Arlene Foster announced yesterday.

Speaking at a Stormont Press conference, Mrs Foster said "the Executive has agreed to provide funding of over £1.3m for payments in lieu of free school meals for the period from 19 October to the 23rd of October, and also to make funding available for the following week as well".

Earlier this week, only one DUP MP voted in the House of Commons in favour of a similar proposal for England.

Mrs Foster said that it was normally party policy not to vote on proposals which would not affect Northern Ireland.

The DUP leader said that Northern Ireland needed to find a way to "live with the virus", and to normalise as much as possible until a vaccine is found.

"We cannot keep closing the country down, or forcing specific sectors to close in order to beat back this virus," she said.

"This pandemic has already cost too many lives, too many restrictions on our liberties within our families, and too many shattered jobs, businesses and dreams."

The First Minister said given the alarming rate of the virus's spread, taking no action last week "was not an option".

But she added: "You cannot have a continuous circuit of turning the economy on and turning the economy off, because when you go to turn it on like a tap, if you go sometimes to turn it on again, there'll be no water there.

"I think strategically, we have to look at things in a different way. We have to see what other interventions we can take, because we all recognise that the virus is going to be with us for a length of time."

Mrs Foster said the test, trace and protect system was to be scaled up.

"It is time to roll out a programme of weekly tests to ensure that our key workers are able to be in hospitals, in clinics, in classrooms, and other vital services," she said.

"There are indications that our shared efforts are turning the tide, and there is a slowing in the rate of infection."

And she called for continued support in the fight against Covid-19. "Please help us - and together we can reignite the flame of hope across Northern Ireland."

Belfast Telegraph