Covid-19: Northern Ireland’s blueprint for exiting lockdown expected on Tuesday

Two more deaths and 138 further cases reported in North

A total of 302 patients are receiving hospital treatment for coronavirus in Northern Ireland, with 34 in intensive care.

A total of 302 patients are receiving hospital treatment for coronavirus in Northern Ireland, with 34 in intensive care.

 

Northern Ireland’s blueprint for exiting lockdown is expected to be published on Tuesday.

The “pathway to recovery” document will set out the stages for the step-by-step easing of restrictions in the North.

It is expected to be led by “data not dates” and to start with “cautious first steps”, with each relaxation introduced gradually and a three-week interval built in between each easement to measure its impact on the spread of the Covid-19 virus.

Ministers met on Monday to discuss the plan, which had been due to be published later in the day. It is understood ministers are in broad agreement over the roadmap, but some additional work was required to finalise some technical details in the document.

The North’s Minister for Finance, Conor Murphy, told the BBC on Monday evening that the recent discussions centred around “practicalities ... there isn’t any significant level of disagreement in relation to the general thrust of the document and where we want to go.

“It’s more important that it’s right than it’s rushed out the door,” he said.

The First Minister, Arlene Foster, said last week that ministers were agreed on the “strategic areas where we will take action first”, and outlined these as education, “trying to find ways to bring that freedom back so that people can see their loved ones”, and economic recovery.

Some pupils are due to return to school on March 8th in what is the first relaxation of the strict lockdown which came into force in the North on St Stephen’s Day. Other measures remain in place until April 1st, and are due to be reviewed mid-March.

The seven-day average of coronavirus cases in the North now stands at 82 cases per 100,000, according to figures released on Monday by the Department of Health in Northern Ireland.

The deaths of two more people with coronavirus were announced, bringing the total number of fatalities to 2,057. A further 138 people tested positive for the virus.

A total of 302 patients were receiving hospital treatment for coronavirus in Northern Ireland as of Monday morning, with 34 in intensive care.

The North’s Department of Health said the vaccination programme would be extended to include people aged between 60 and 64.

They can now book a vaccination appointment online at one of the health and social care trusts’ seven regional vaccination centres.

So far more than 500,000 people in Northern Ireland have received their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine.