Northern Ireland news

Coronavirus infection rate ‘too high' to ease lockdown in Northern Ireland

No alterations will be made to coronavirus lockdown restrictions today but "minor" adjustments will be considered by the Executive next week, the first minister has said.

First Minister Arlene Foster said the Executive had decided not to make any alterations to the social distancing regulations at present.

"We still believe that they are needed and are proportionate to deal with the threat of the spread of the virus."

The reproductive rate of the virus stands at 0.8 but the first minister said that was still too high.

Stormont ministers had calls with Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson today, and will take part in a Cobra meeting on Sunday.

Ms Foster said the use of face covering in enclosed spaces where social distancing was not possible had been considered.

She said specialist scientific advice from Sage had concluded "on balance" to recommend use of the coverings in those circumstances.

Ms Foster said each devolved region of the UK had its own coronavirus regulations and reviewed them regularly.

She said: "I don't think the prime minister was moving dramatically away from that stay at home message, that is certainly what I got from him on our call today.

"Some of the London press have maybe exaggerated what is coming on Sunday.

"I get the sense that they know that there is a need to continue to suppress the virus right across the UK and I think that is what the prime minister was saying."

Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill said the north had its own Public Health Agency and medical advice on preventing the spread of coronavirus.

"We can follow our own health messaging. There can be no room for confusion."

Increased traffic on the roads has caused some concern about people's continued adherence to social distancing.

Ms O'Neill added: "You can see fraying around the edges.

"You don't want to compound that even further by having confused public health messaging."

Ms Foster warned that people showing complacency about the coronavirus restrictions were lengthening the time before they could go back to normal life.

"If that breaks down, you are prolonging the imposition of these regulations rather than moving to the future."

Michelle O'Neill added: "This is about what is right, it is about getting it right, it is about preventing a second wave and making sure that we get it spot on as best we can."

This weekend marks the anniversary of VE Day.

Arlene Foster told the daily Stormont news conference: "Our world is a long way from its VE Day."

She said compared to that fight of previous generations what people were being asked to do now seemed very small but was hugely important.

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access

Northern Ireland news