Coronavirus: Ministers issue statement on recovery plan

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The Northern Ireland Executive says it will “consider its plan for a phased, strategic approach to recovery” at a meeting on Monday.

A statement from First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill was issued on Sunday night.

Politicians in NI had emphasised the “stay at home message” ahead of the prime minister’s address on Sunday.

The executive has already extended lockdown in NI until 28 May.

Arlene Foster and Michelle O’Neill took part in a Cobra call on Sunday afternoon with the prime minister.

On Sunday evening, Boris Johnson unveiled a “conditional plan” to reopen society, allowing people in England to spend more time outdoors from Wednesday.

Mrs Foster said on Sunday evening “we have flattened the curve of infection, reduced the R rate to below one and protected our health service but we are not out of the woods yet”.

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Arlene Foster said the message on the whole remained to “stay at home”

“It is important that we continue to follow this advice,” she added.

“As the executive begins to finalise our plans for recovery, we need to strike the balance between continuing to protect lives and the health service and give people hope for the future.

“The changes that we will introduce will be gradual, proportionate and based on scientific and medical advice and will be taken at the right time and in the best interests of the people of Northern Ireland.”

Ms O’Neill said “we are at a critical stage in the fight against the virus and so our recovery must be phased, gradual and strategic”.

She added: “The decisions this executive will take in the days and weeks ahead are some of the biggest we will ever have to make.

“We know that six weeks into the restrictions, people need some light at the end of the tunnel.

“We also know that recovery will only happen one step at a time, to do otherwise risks undermining the sacrifices people have already made and increases the risk of a second spike in the future.”

Health officials in England have changed their message to “stay alert” with regard to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.

In NI, the message remains the same.

Earlier on Sunday, Mrs Foster said the message on the whole remained to “stay at home”.

She added Northern Ireland will have a “road map” for moving out of lockdown at the beginning of the week.

She said people in Northern Ireland had complied with the social distancing regulations although “compliance is beginning to fray”.

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill and Health Minister Robin Swann both tweeted “stay at home” messages on Sunday.

Alliance deputy leader Stephen Farry said that in a cross-party call with the prime minister on Sunday, he had expressed concerns about the “stay alert” message.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said he felt the message “doesn’t make any sense and nobody will understand it”.

“I said very clearly to Boris Johnson, it’s not a burglar we are worried about it’s a virus,” he added.

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Colum Eastwood said he felt the “stay alert” message “does not make any sense”

And Ulster Unionist leader Steve Aiken said: “It is our strong belief that now is not the time to change the message or direction.

“Until the R rate is reduced we must continue to keep staying home, keep protecting our NHS & above all, keep saving lives.”

Green Party NI leader Clare Bailey said “the message for people across Northern Ireland is to stay home, safe safe and protect our NHS”.

Earlier on Sunday Scotland’s First Minister asked the UK government not to advertise its new “stay alert” message north of the border.

Nicola Sturgeon said: “Given the critical point we are at in tackling the virus, #StayHomeSaveLives remains my clear message to Scotland at this stage.”

In Wales, the country’s First Minister Mark Drakeford said people should stay home “wherever you can”.

On Sunday, it was reported that five more people diagnosed with coronavirus have died in Northern Ireland.

That brings the number of Covid-19 related deaths to 435, according to Department of Health figures.

They show the number of people with a positive laboratory completed test is now 4,119.

The total number of laboratory completed tests is 38,984.

These figures are one of two sets published in Northern Ireland.

The others are weekly statistics from Northern Ireland’s Statistics and Research Agency (Nisra), which cover all fatalities where coronavirus has been recorded on the death certificate.

Figures released by Northern Ireland’s Statistics Agency (Nisra) on Friday showed there have been 516 coronavirus-related deaths recorded overall in NI – including 232 in care homes, and four in hospices.

Official statistics on Friday showed that, for a second week, there were more deaths in care homes (71) than hospitals (39).

Overall, there have been 232 care home deaths related to coronavirus.

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill has called for universal testing for Covid-19 across all of Northern Ireland’s care homes immediately.

A further 269 people diagnosed with Covid-19 have died in the UK it was reported on Sunday, bringing the total to 31,855.

The figures count deaths in hospitals, care homes and the community.

On Sunday, it was reported that a further 12 people with Covid-19 have died in the Republic of Ireland.

It brings the number of coronavirus related deaths in the country to 1,458.

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