| 14.7°C Belfast

O’Neill brands Johnson’s plan to ease Covid restrictions in England ‘reckless’

The deputy First Minister says there are no plans to end the use of face masks in Northern Ireland.

Close

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill during a press conference at which she said Northern Ireland would not be following the English model in widespread easing of Covid restrictions (Liam McBurney/PA)

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill during a press conference at which she said Northern Ireland would not be following the English model in widespread easing of Covid restrictions (Liam McBurney/PA)

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill during a press conference at which she said Northern Ireland would not be following the English model in widespread easing of Covid restrictions (Liam McBurney/PA)

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill has described Boris Johnson’s plan to ease Covid-19 restrictions in England as “reckless”.

Ms O’Neill said there are no plans to end the use of face masks in Northern Ireland and she is “not prepared to go to the end of the line” with easing restrictions.

She said the Executive will be having discussions ahead of Thursday’s meeting to consider what further measures can be relaxed.

The Prime Minister said this week that he is confident the majority of the remaining Covid restrictions in England can be lifted from July 19.

This will include making face masks voluntary and ending social distancing.

In the first instance, we will not be following the Boris Johnson model; we are a locally elected Executive, we must take our own decisions in the people’s best interests hereMichelle O'Neill

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Ms O’Neill was asked if a similar approach would be considered for Northern Ireland.

She said: “In the first instance, we will not be following the Boris Johnson model; we are a locally elected Executive, we must take our own decisions in the people’s best interests here.

Daily Headlines & Evening Telegraph Newsletter

Receive today's headlines directly to your inbox every morning and evening, with our free daily newsletter.

This field is required

“We will have some discussions over today and tomorrow in advance of Thursday’s Executive, we will set out a programme of how we can remove some restrictions.

“We are still in a space where we need to be very careful. The Health Minister has made it very clear we are not in a position where we are able to remove face masks; I would support that.”

Close

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill during a press conference at which she said the Executive would consider further easing of Covid regulations on Thursday (Liam McBurney/PA)

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill during a press conference at which she said the Executive would consider further easing of Covid regulations on Thursday (Liam McBurney/PA)

PA

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill during a press conference at which she said the Executive would consider further easing of Covid regulations on Thursday (Liam McBurney/PA)

She added: “It is a case of trying to make steady progress, coming out of the restrictions as best we can, but I am not prepared to go to the end of the line yet because that is not where we are.

“I would be concerned, particularly for the people in England because of the route map that has been set out by Boris Johnson. In my opinion, I think it is a reckless approach.

“We will probably be able to set out a direction of travel for what the next couple of months will look like, but certainly it will not be everything.”

Close

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said people were looking forward to the day when they could ‘return to some degree of normality’ (Liam McBurney/PA

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said people were looking forward to the day when they could ‘return to some degree of normality’ (Liam McBurney/PA

PA

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said people were looking forward to the day when they could ‘return to some degree of normality’ (Liam McBurney/PA

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said he would encourage people to continue wearing face masks until the regulations in Northern Ireland are changed.

He said: “I think we are all looking forward to the day when we can return to some degree of normality and live our lives in the way that we had become accustomed to.

“Obviously in Northern Ireland the Executive will meet, there is a paper to be brought forward by our minister for health which will make further recommendations about easing the restrictions, we will need to look at where we are with the spread of the virus in Northern Ireland.

I would certainly encourage people to continue wearing their face masks and abiding by the social distancing until the new guidanceSir Jeffrey Donaldson

“I think there will be many people who will still want to wear their face masks when they are out shopping, out doing business.

“I think it is right we move eventually to a situation where it is a voluntary decision by each individual and I would certainly encourage people to continue wearing their face masks and abiding by the social distancing until the new guidance.”

Chief Medical Officer Michael McBride said this week that Northern Ireland has entered a fourth wave of the coronavirus pandemic.

Sir Michael said: “We are in the fourth wave of this virus, there is no doubt about that. Numbers will increase rapidly and we can do things to slow that, we can continue to follow the public health advice, but most importantly now is the time to get the vaccine.”

Meanwhile, a further 417 positive cases of Covid-19 have been reported in Northern Ireland, the Department of Health said.

No deaths have been reported in the past 24 hours.

On Tuesday morning, there were 37 Covid-positive patients in hospital, of whom five were in intensive care.

To date, 2,079,758 vaccinations have been administered in Northern Ireland.


Top Videos



Privacy