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Suzanne Breen

Executive lockdown plan uninspiring but slow and sensible

Suzanne Breen


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First Minister Arlene Foster, along with deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill, announced Northern Ireland’s road map for relaxing social distancing regulations (Liam McBurney/PA)

First Minister Arlene Foster, along with deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill, announced Northern Ireland’s road map for relaxing social distancing regulations (Liam McBurney/PA)

PA

First Minister Arlene Foster, along with deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill, announced Northern Ireland’s road map for relaxing social distancing regulations (Liam McBurney/PA)

The Executive’s initial coronavirus response didn’t inspire confidence but its plan to ease lockdown is slow and sensible.

No matter how much some clamour for action and dates, Arlene Foster and Michelle O’Neill are right to adopt an ultra-cautious approach that focuses first and foremost on saving lives.

There has been significant political distancing from Downing Street. Stomont is not blindly following Boris’ blueprint, but charting its own course.

Industry’s anxiety about the lack of clarity on dates is entirely understandable, but coronavirus makes a return to any sort of normality off the cards for 2021.

Arlene Foster said she hoped to reach the final stage – step five – by December. It is not until then that cafes, restaurants and pubs will be able to open on a limited basis.

And competitive sport will return.

Home working – for those who can – is now the new normal. It is to continue indefinitely with people “strongly encouraged” to do so even in December.

Non-food retail opens in step two with numbers limited and social distancing in place.

Schools are expected to open in September but with reduced numbers on a part-time basis with remote learning in place.

That is entirely understandable but the raises all sorts of child-care problems for working parents.

Libraries can open in step three, hairdressers and leisure centres in step four. There are no quick fixes for anybody here.

A comprehensive programme of coronavirus testing, tracing and tracking would help massively.

Progression to another step is very much dependent on avoiding a second wave.

Lockdown life will be with us in some shape or form until that threat passes.

Belfast Telegraph