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CORONAVIRUS LATEST: Cemeteries will now reopen to the public

'We have agreed to support the Health Minister in lifting the restrictions on access to graveyards'

city cemetery

First Minister Arlene Foster has just announced that cemeteries will reopen to the public following an Executive meeting.

She said: "We have agreed to support the Health Minister in lifting the restrictions on access to graveyards.

"This is about balancing public health concerns with the basic human need for people to visit their loved one's grave.

"And in lifting this restriction it is vital that members of the public heed the advice around going out in public, when they are in a cemetery respecting that 2 metre social distancing rule, limiting their interaction with others and of course washing their hands thoroughly after they have been in public.

"Losing a loved one is a huge moment in anyone's life and while homes all across Northern Ireland are having to grieve without a wake or a public funeral I do want to take an opportunity to sympathise with political colleagues who are currently grieving (Edwin Poots and Jeffrey Donaldson who lost their fathers)."

She added: "Unfortunately COVID-19 has impacted on our traditional approach to mourning in this part of the world.  We have been speaking with funeral directors as many COVID-19 burials still take place.

"And during the pandemic it is strongly recommended that funeral arrangements are made with your undertaker by telephone and not in person at the funeral director's premises or the family home.  And while funeral notices can still be placed in newspapers or using online services, funeral arrangements should not be advertised.

"So, in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19 wakes should not be held, funerals should be in private adhering to social distancing guidance and only a maximum of ten people should attend.

"Current restrictions on social gathering and the need for social distancing means that any gathering such as are common after a funeral should also not take place.

"And we know a lot is being asked of the bereaved at this time as you grieve but we would not be asking you to respect these restrictions if it were not quite literally a matter of life and death, so please do listen to the advice of your funeral directors.

"And to the wider population as we head into this beautiful weekend please do remain at home as much as possible and if you do need to go out for essential work or shopping or exercise please respect the social distancing advice and wash your hands thoroughly - that's the most effective thing you can do to stop the spread of COVID-19."

The First Minister commended the public for 'flattening the curve' but warned that now is 'not the time to be careless'.

Social distancing will be with us for a long time, she said, and we will need to learn how to go about our business.

And she concluded by saying that testing and contact tracing will also be crucial moving forward.

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