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CORONAVIRUS LATEST: Northern Ireland's pathway out of lockdown could be published this week, says Deputy First Minister

It is revealed that six more people have died of COVID-19 as First and Deputy First Minister speak about easing restrictions

CORONAVIRUS LATEST: Northern Ireland's pathway out of lockdown could be published this week, says Deputy First Minister

The First and Deputy First Ministers for Northern Ireland have indicated that a pathway out of lockdown will be published in the coming days.

At the weekend, the Irish government outlined its roadmap for reopening society and business. 

The British government is set to publish its plans this Sunday.

Speaking at today’s COVID-19 press conference First Minister Arlene Foster said the NI Executive is working ‘actively’ on its plan and continues to make progress.

She said people would be ‘anxious’ to know of NI’s plan but cautioned that social distancing measures are ‘likely to be with us for some time’.

The First Minister explained: “In fashioning a plan ministers are being guided by the latest medical and scientific evidence.

“We are looking closely at the current rate of infection, the estimated level of transmission, and estimates of future trajectory in this pandemic once relaxation takes place.

“Another significant factor in our planning is assessing the impact on our health and social care system to deal with COVID-19 cases.

“And also of course the resumption of other health services.  The Executive is also assessing the wider health, societal and economic implications of the current restrictions to determine which areas will pose the least risk and greatest benefit if we were to relax them.

“None of these decisions are easy, as we’ve said before all governments are grappling with the implications of a public health crisis that we never thought would come to pass.

“And COVID-19 has dramatically altered society and will have implications for the way we live for many years to come.”

She added that there is a danger of the public becoming distracted and going back to what they did before. 

The First Minister said the country needs to be on guard and respect social distancing guidelines.

She went on to say that people ‘cannot afford to be lax’ and act like coronavirus has been beaten as it still ‘poses a threat to you and those you love’.

Restrictions won’t be kept in place any longer than is necessary, she concluded.

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said any approach must be ‘cautious and gradual’ as COVID-19 is still spreading and taking lives.

She asked the public not to take matters into their own hands.

The plan will be published as soon as possible, ‘hopefully later this week’.

Any plan is ‘not a green light’ for people to do as they choose as the Executive is looking at the safest possible approach, the Deputy First Minister added.

She also took the opportunity to welcome Finance Minister Conor Murphy's announcement of over £700 million of new funding for infrastructure, regeneration, and tourism projects across the north. 

That includes match funding of £105m for Derry City and Strabane's City Deal/Inclusive Future Fund.

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