Foster and O’Neill to discuss Covid-19 figures with Taoiseach and UK PM

Calls for British-Irish concerted approach to virus as 616 new cases announced in NI

First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill were due to discuss the sharp rise in coronavirus cases with the Taoiseach and British prime minister on Monday. Photograph: Kelvin Boyes/Press Eye/PA.

First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill were due to discuss the sharp rise in coronavirus cases with the Taoiseach and British prime minister on Monday. Photograph: Kelvin Boyes/Press Eye/PA.

 

First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill were due to discuss the sharp rise in coronavirus cases with the Taoiseach and British prime minister on Monday, according to senior Stormont sources.

Amid calls for a British-Irish concerted approach to tackling Covid-19 and the possibility of a move to Level5 restrictions in the Republic, DUP and Sinn Féin leaders were planning to hold telephone conversations with Micheál Martin and Boris Johnson about the pandemic.

The Northern Executive also met on Monday as the North’s Department of Health reported 616 new cases of Covid-19 in its daily afternoon bulletin, bringing the total number of cases to 14,690. There were no additional deaths, leaving the death toll at 584.

The department also reported 3,630 new cases of the virus in the past seven days, with the highest number of cases continuing to be recorded in the Derry and Strabane Council area.

In Derry and Strabane there were 534 cases of the virus per 100,000 of the population in the past seven days. Next highest was Newry, Mourne and Down where the incidence was 321 cases per 100,000 followed by Belfast with 241 cases per 100,000.

Northern Executive Ministers in their meeting on Monday did not take any decisions to introduce new measures to combat the virus. Last week it moved to bring in more restrictions in the Strabane and Derry Council area which came into effect on Monday.

The Executive however did discuss proposals to introduce a “circuit breaker” in Northern Ireland – an effective two or three-week lockdown to try to curb the increase in Covid-19 cases. No decision was taken on the matter however.

The Executive also considered how the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) had proposed that the Republic should move to Level 5 restrictions.

Again the Executive decided against taking any immediate decisions. It is due to meet again on Thursday to further assess the situation.

On Sunday the Sinn Féin finance Minister Conor Murphy said that if a “circuit breaker” restriction was imposed in Northern Ireland similar measures should be introduced in the Republic and Britain to maximise the chances of restricting the spread of the virus across Britain and Ireland.

The position of the Executive appears to be to continue to monitor the situation in the coming days before deciding whether to move to more restrictions.

The North’s health Minister Robin Swann meanwhile said he would “not hesitate to recommend further restrictions” if necessary while adding that he did not want to see a “long-term” lockdown.

“Household contacts have been severely curtailed across Northern Ireland and more intensive restrictions have been introduced for Derry and Strabane local government district, in light of the data for that council area,” he said.

“Additional planned interventions are under active consideration. I continue to be very mindful of the adverse consequences of this pandemic on society and the economy. I do not want a return to a long-term or indefinite lockdown.”