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Coronavirus: Arlene Foster and Michelle O'Neill confirmed shortened US trip due to outbreak

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Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill and First Minister Arlene Foster

Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill and First Minister Arlene Foster

Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill and First Minister Arlene Foster

The First Minister and Deputy First Minister have confirmed they will be cutting their St Patrick's week trip to the US short due to coronavirus.

Michelle O'Neill and Arlene Foster were originally due to fly out on Sunday, however they will now leave on Tuesday so they can take part in an emergency Cobra meeting with Prime Minister Boris Johnson and senior cabinet ministers on coronavirus on Monday.

The news comes as two further coronavirus cases were confirmed in Northern Ireland, bring the total number of cases in the region to three.

Economy Minister Diane Dodds will instead represent the Executive at a series of meetings with business and tourism leaders in New York.

In Washington DC, Arlene Foster and Michelle O'Neill will host the NI Bureau breakfast event, attend the White House Reception, the Speaker's Lunch Event, and a meeting with Vice President Mike Pence.

Mrs Foster said the Executive is committed to strengthening Northern Ireland's relationship with the US.

“While there have been some necessary adjustments to our itinerary as we support efforts to ensure the containment of the coronavirus, we still have a packed programme of high level engagements in Washington with business and political leaders," she said.

"We are looking forward to the opportunity to highlight the benefits of living, working and visiting here as part of our drive to secure inward investment and grow the economy.”

Michelle O'Neill said the decision to scale back the trip was necessary to balance public health responsibilities and efforts to attract inward investment.

“Our decision to join critical civil contingencies meetings requires us to remain in Belfast," she added.

“We will continue to work closely with ministers and health professionals to support their efforts to contain the virus here.

"Preventing the spread of the virus is the best way to protect people and everyone should continue to follow public health advice from the medical professionals to help keep themselves and others safe.”

Belfast Telegraph