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Social distancing will be in place in NI for a ‘number of years’, O’Neill

The Deputy First Minister said the region will have to live with restrictions until an effective vaccine is found.

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Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill at Stormont prior to announcing to the Northern Ireland Assembly, the Executive’s approach to coronavirus decision-making.

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill at Stormont prior to announcing to the Northern Ireland Assembly, the Executive’s approach to coronavirus decision-making.

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill at Stormont prior to announcing to the Northern Ireland Assembly, the Executive’s approach to coronavirus decision-making.

People in Northern Ireland will have to abide by social distancing measures for a number of years, Michelle O’Neill has said.

The deputy first minister said until an effective vaccine for Covid-19 was available the region would have to live with some restrictions.

“We will be socially distancing for a number of years, we will be staying apart even in gatherings of people for a number of years I believe,” she told Cool FM.

“Because until we get to the point where there is a vaccine for Covid-19 we are going to have to live with it and, in order to live with it, we are going to have to do all these things to minimise the transmission.”

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The Stormont executive has published a five step plan for exiting the lockdown (Niall Carson/PA).

The Stormont executive has published a five step plan for exiting the lockdown (Niall Carson/PA).

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The Stormont executive has published a five step plan for exiting the lockdown (Niall Carson/PA).

Ms O’Neill said she hoped the first step in Stormont’s coronavirus recovery plan could commence before the next scheduled review of the current lockdown regulations on May 28.

“I hope we’ll be in a position to move before the 28th,” she said.

“As soon as the science says we can move we will move.”

Ms O’Neill said she was grateful for the “collective” way in which the executive had been able to work through the emergency.

She said relationships between ministers had been enhanced and “were in a fairly good place” because they had been working so closely together through the crisis.

“I think we have managed to steer our way through it fairly well,” she said.

“We’ve had our ups and downs, we’re all adults and we’re going to have disagreements and that’s all right, there’s plenty of space for that, but I think it’s important that we continue to work our way through it and work together as much as we can in the public interest.”

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