Coronavirus: Northern Ireland's death toll now at 449

Final stage of easing lockdown will be ‘long before December’, says Arlene Foster

Northern Ireland’s First Minister Arlene Foster. Photograph: Birmingham City Council/PA Wire

Northern Ireland’s First Minister Arlene Foster. Photograph: Birmingham City Council/PA Wire

 

Two more people have died in Northern Ireland from coronavirus, according to the North’s Department of Health, bringing the death toll so far to 449.

The department also reported on Wednesday afternoon that an additional 60 people have tested positive for Covid-19 bringing the number of confirmed cases to 4,253.

Meanwhile, First Minister Arlene Foster said on Wednesday that she hoped that the final stage of the Northern Executive’s five-step plan for exiting the lockdown would be “long past” by December.

The Executive’s plan for easing the restrictions came in for criticism from some business leaders and politicians because, unlike in the Republic, no dates are set for each of the five stages.

There was also a suggestion on Tuesday that the date for the final step could be up to early December but Ms Foster said on Wednesday that unless the North got caught in a second wave of infections the final stage would be achieved “long before December”.

Speaking to the press while visiting the Pond Park Primary school in Lisburn, Co Antrim, which is open for children of key workers, Ms Foster was asked if the final step could be reached by August, which is the date for the Republic reaching its final stage.

“It’s no mystery that even though we have our own plans, the plans are similar. They are similar with the Republic of Ireland and they are similar indeed with the rest of the United Kingdom as well,” she said.

“We understand that these regulations are draconian, we understand that they have a big impact on people’s lives, and therefore we don’t want to keep them one single day more than we have to. If we get the medical advice that we can move, then we will move,” added Ms Foster.

The North’s relaxation of restrictions is to begin with actions such as the opening of garden centres and allowing people into churches for prayer and culminate with the opening of pubs, cafes and restaurants and a return to competitive sport which spectators can attend on a restricted basis.

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