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Coronavirus: Arlene Foster and Michelle O'Neill's New York engagements are called off

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Michelle O'Neill and Arlene Foster

Michelle O'Neill and Arlene Foster

Michelle O'Neill and Arlene Foster

A St Patrick's week trip to the US by Arlene Foster and Michelle O'Neill is to be shortened due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Stormont sources on Tuesday night said the First Minister's and Deputy First Minister's New York engagements had been cancelled.

They will now attend only events in Washington. Rather than leave for the US this Sunday, they will fly out on Tuesday so they can take part in an emergency Cobra meeting with the Prime Minister and senior cabinet ministers on coronavirus on Monday. Health Minister Robin Swann, who had no plans to go to the US, will also join the meeting.

Economy Minister Diane Dodds will represent the Executive at the New York engagements. She will also attend the Washington engagements.

Asked about Mrs Foster's and Ms O'Neill's travel arrangements, an Executive Office spokeswoman said: "Ministers plan to travel to the US next week to meet political and business leaders. The precise arrangements will be dependent on their broader ministerial responsibilities including Executive preparations to combat Covid-19. Further details of the visit will be provided in due course."

The First and Deputy First Minister are still on course to meet politicians on Capitol Hill on Wednesday and to attend a White House reception hosted by President Trump.

Meanwhile Mary Lou McDonald is due to return to the Dail tomorrow. Two of the Sinn Fein president's children had been put into precautionary quarantine along with the rest of their school due to a person contracting coronavirus. "My children are well and I have been advised there is no reason for me to stay away," Ms McDonald told RTE. The Dail business committee must decide whether or not there will be a second vote for Taoiseach tomorrow.

Belfast Telegraph