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Live Reporting

All times stated are UK

  1. Hay! We hope you have a good evening

    That's all for our coverage of the coronavirus pandemic in Northern Ireland for today.

    In the meantime, you can stay up-to-date with all the latest on the BBC News NI website and on radio and TV.

    We'll be back again at 08:00 BST on Wednesday. We will leave you with this lovely picture taken by Ciara McSorley of one of Newtownstewart's hay bale superheroes.

    Hay Superhero
  2. Education minister outlines school restart plan

    Education Peter Weir

    Education Minister Peter Weir is outlining his department's plans to restart schools in light of the Covid-19 pandemic to Stormont's Education Committee.

    You can follow all the updates from Stormont via our dedicated live page here.

  3. The hay bale superheroes of County Tyrone

    Ali Gordon

    BBC News NI

    Meet Newtownstewart's hay bale superheroes reminding a County Tyrone community that "together we are a superpower" in the fight against coronavirus.

    After weeks of planning, the 12ft (3.65m) high structures have been erected in a field on the Newtownstewart bypass.

    Spiderman, Batman, Iron Man, Captain America, Wonder Woman and Superwoman are attracting lots of visitors.

    "There have been people queuing up to see it," one of the designers told BBC News NI.

    Superheroes

    "We thought we'd use the bales as a message for Covid-19 - that superheroes represent us, the people, who are key weapons in the battle against coronavirus," said Shauneen Kilpatrick.

    "The superheroes are supposed to be representative of each and every person and the weapons we've been given to fight the battle is social distancing, washing your hands and wearing a mask.

    Read more.

  4. Many students are 'feeling a bit lost'

    A representative from a Northern Ireland student union has said they have been "inundated with messages" from students who are confused over what the A-level grade adjustment will mean for their future plans.

    Alana Cahoon, who volunteers with the Secondary Students' Union of Northern Ireland, says many students are "distraught" and "feeling a bit lost".

    Speaking to BBC Radio Foyle, Ms Cahoon says it has left a lot of people waiting for university places in a "weird situation".

    "A lot of people may not have initially got their grades for their first choice and might have accepted a second choice or have gone through clearing.

    Students

    "They are now being told they have their grades (for their first choice) but there may be no space for them."

    Ms Cahoon said many students were now considering whether to postpone their studies and defer if there is a scramble for a limited amount of university places, which could then have a knock-on effect for future places at universities next year.

    "No young people should have their future put on hold for a year or made to go a different direction due to the government's mistake."

  5. Reopening of schools a priority for Irish cabinet

    Shane Harrison

    BBC NI Dublin correspondent

    The Republic of Ireland’s cabinet is due to meet this afternoon to discuss the Covid-19 situation ahead of schools reopening in the coming two weeks.

    Ministers will debate how to reduce the spread of the virus; the implications for the wider health service and the protection of vulnerable groups - such as the elderly and those in nursing homes.

    There is speculation that the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) has recommended to the government that older people may be asked to limit their time outdoors again and family gatherings indoors may be reduced to six people.

    Green Party's Eamon Ryan, Fianna Fáil's Micheál Martin and Fine Gael's Leo Varadkar

    The new three-party coalition of Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Irish Green Party has prioritised the reopening of schools, not just for the educational and mental health benefits of pupils and students but also for the sake of the wider economy as it might allow some parents to return to work full time.

    The meeting comes at a time when the country has seen sudden weekend spikes in new reported cases of Covid-19.

    Yesterday, for the fifth day in a row, there were no reported deaths linked to the virus, with seven patients in hospitals and none currently in ICU.

  6. Wider education system needs looked at - Prof Tony Gallagher

    More now on the next stage of the A-level grading dispute, which involves how universities are going to fund the extra places needed as a result.

    Queen's University Professor of Education Tony Gallagher says there needs to be a wider look at how the education system as a whole is working at present, "rather than looking at each individual bit of it".

    He told Talkback this should include schools and further education colleges, as well as universities.

    "At the moment in some senses everyone's competing with everyone else and that's actually not working for the common good."

    School

    Prof Gallagher says the debate around lifting the cap on student numbers for NI universities implies "that fees go up to English levels, or there's additional public investment from the Department for the conomy".

    "There is a question this year about how we deal with this particular situation and whether there needs to be an investment at this point to get through this particular crisis.

    "There's a bigger issue about into the future."

  7. Where are the cases?

    A further 41 people have tested positive with coronavirus in Northern Ireland in the past 24 hours, according to Department of Health's latest update

    This brings the total number of confirmed cases in NI to 6,471.

    Most of the new cases recorded in the past 24 hours were in Belfast where 14 new infections were reported.

    Council breakdown
  8. BreakingCovid-19 death toll rises to 559

    A further Covid-19-related death has been recorded in Northern Ireland, bringing the Department of Health's total to 559.

    Table showing Department of Health NI's daily coronavirus update

    There have now been 6,471 confirmed cases of the virus, a rise of 41.

    Graph showing reported new daily cases of coronavirus in NI
  9. Universities dealing with unholy mess - Heenan

    Ulster University Professor Deirdre Heenan says she hopes the debate about A-level grades has "opened up" a bigger discussion about higher education funding.

    She says universities, particularly their admissions teams have been handed "an unholy mess" after yesterday's decision.

    "People have to realise that it's simply not a matter of reinstating grades, because that doesn't address the issue of the places that have been withdrawn, the places offered to someone else, and what then are the legal and indeed the moral obligations to our students," she told Talkback.

    Deirdre Heenan

    Prof Heenan says Northern Ireland is the only region which operates a cap on the number of students a university can take in.

    "That has been there for cost reasons, it's a cost-saving mechanism," she explained.

    "So when people come out this morning and say 'well why don't we just raise the cap or lift the cap', it's a much more complex issue than that."

  10. Linfield game to go ahead despite Covid-19 case

    Linfield FC player kicks ball

    Linfield's Champions League first qualifying round tie in Poland is set to go ahead today despite a Legia Warsaw player testing positive for Covid-19.

    The Polish champions announced the positive test late on Monday.

    Linfield were granted a bye to the game after Kosovan opponents FC Drita had two positive cases before last week's scheduled tie in Switzerland.

    Tuesday's match will be streamed live on the BBC Sport website and app.

    Read more on this story here.

  11. Arts Council NI announces £1.9m in funding

    Money

    The Arts Council of Northern Ireland has announced funding of more than £1.9m from their Organisations Emergency Programme to support 150 arts organisations affected by the pandemic.

    The organisations will benefit from grants of up to £25,000 each to "enable them to continue producing creative work, assist with operational costs and to help plan for recovery".

    Chief Executive of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Roisín McDonough, said the impact of the lockdown on the "earned income" of organisations had been "severe and immediate".

    “Funding for the arts in Northern Ireland was already in a fragile state pre-Covid-19 and we estimate that since the pandemic, organisations are facing deficits of over £6m; a figure which may increase as the year progresses," she said.

    "These organisations are among the most creative, flexible and inventive in our society, and many are already finding imaginative and innovative ways to deliver online content."

  12. 'Consequences of A-level decisions must be faced up to'

    Diane Dodds

    Economy Minister Diane Dodds has said the "consequences of the latest decisions on A-levels must be faced up to".

    Queen's University Belfast has said it is seeking "clarity as a matter of urgency" after changes to A-level grades.

    Ulster University said it still had places available.

    "I support the universities in their assessment of the extra burdens and requirement that this will place upon them," Mrs Dodds said.

    "Additional places and extra resources will be required and I will be working with executive colleagues to ensure this happens as soon possible."

  13. Finance Minister tweets about 'additional university places'

    NI Finance Minister Conor Murphy has tweeted to say the "decision on A-level grades will require additional university places for our students" and he is "happy to work with Executive colleagues to identify the necessary resources to achieve this".

    Queen's University Belfast has said it is seeking "clarity as a matter of urgency" after changes to A-level grades.

    The university warned it may need between 500 to 1,000 extra places to admit all affected students, at a cost of about £4,000 per student.

    Ulster University said it still had places available.

    Read more on this story here.

    View more on twitter
  14. Law degree hopes 'restored'

    An A-level student who had his results downgraded last week said the education minister's U-turn had restored his hope of reading law at Bristol University.

    Jamie Harkin, from Drumragh College in Omagh, told Radio Ulster's Good Morning Ulster programme that he does not believe the change would have happened "without the pressure from so many students, teachers and journalists".

    "Today I am celebrating because I have the results I wanted and deserved," he said.

    "I think this whole situation was handled poorly from the outset, what we can do is learn lessons from this situation, I think the mental health of young people wasn’t considered."

  15. Urgent decisions around university funding needed - Farry

    Alliance Party MP Stephen Farry says "urgent decisions" are needed by the Northern Ireland Executive around increased funding for universities to deal with the difficulties caused by the regrading of A-levels.

    "Potentially we have situation where both Queen's and Ulster are maybe looking at a thousand people who would otherwise have been accepted are now in a situation of limbo, not knowing if they are getting in or not and that is a large volume of people," he told The Nolan Show.

    Exams

    "As one situation is addressed, other problems open up," he explained.

    "That does point to the need for the executive and the Department for the Economy in particular to try to take an overarching look at this.

    "This will involve putting some more money on the table. This can't simply be a monitoring round, a one-off commitment, these are three/four year courses."

  16. 'Optimism among scientists that Covid-19 can be treated'

    US journalist Sarah Zhang says there is optimism in the scientific community that Covid-19 could become less of a severe illness over time.

    Discussing her article - The coronavirus is never going away - in The Atlantic, Ms Zhang says "it's important to realise that we're settling in for the long haul" and "it's very possible that next year we'll have a vaccine".

    As is the case with other viruses, Ms Zhang told Good Morning Ulster: "We'll probably get a better sense of how to treat the virus, we'll probably also get vaccines that, even if they don't offer complete immunity, they could make a severe case into a mild case.

    "There is a lot of optimism around the fact that we can simply find ways to deal with the virus."

    Vaccine

    She continued: "The other theory is with viruses, there is often a trade-off between how deadly they are and how well they spread, because ultimately viruses don't want to kill people, what they want to do is spread.

    "It's very possible that in the future this might be a virus that you either get a vaccine for, maybe you get a booster shot every year even, or maybe you get it as a kid and it gives you some protection, so the next time you get it you're not going to get very, very sick."

  17. 'Conditional uni offer taken away'

    A student who was rejected from her place in medicine at Queen's University after receiving her standardised A-level grades last week says she now hopes her teacher-predicted grades will secure her place.

    Cailíosa, a pupil at St Paul's High School in Bessbrook, says her conditional offer was taken away because of a situation which she "couldn't control".

    "I don't really think it would be very fair for the ministers to justify how myself and all of the other students in my position aren't getting in any more," she told The Nolan Show.

    QUB

    "We're sitting here with the grades, we were given an offer," she continued.

    "I've now met the conditions but due to the mess up that's happening, I've missed out on my place.

    "It's such a unique year, we didn't get to do the tests, so obviously stuff is going to have to change this year and hopefully they will be able to change the cap that's on the amount of people allowed into Queen's."

  18. Case numbers 'going in the wrong direction'

    The number of Covid-19 cases in Northern Ireland is "going in the wrong direction", a professor of molecular virology at Queen's University has said.

    There were 288 cases of the Covid-19 recorded by the Department of Health in the past week.

    Dr Ultan Power told BBC Radio Ulster's Nolan Show the rise "was a concern" and was "something we want to mitigate as much as possible".

    "The numbers are going in the wrong direction but the numbers are still relatively low," he said.

    "We are in a position now where we can test more and trace more - that is probably part of the reason the numbers appear to be going up rapidly.

    "The key is to have the capacity to know where and in what setting are outbreaks happening, not to incriminate people but to understand the circumstances under which this virus is transmitting, and apparently very easily, in certain settings.

    "So people will become more aware of the settings that need to be avoided."

    2m social-distance sign
  19. Irish cabinet to discuss rise in cases

    Shane Harrison

    BBC NI Dublin correspondent

    There has been a surge in cases quite recently.

    They're putting it down to community transmission and an awful lot of asymptomatic transmission of the disease, particularly in places like meat factories and in areas where people are in close contact with each other.

    A lot of the workers in meat plants live in what is called direct provision and that's a system where asylum seekers, by and large, live in close proximity until their cases are dealt with.

    Micheal Martin

    Three counties in the Republic, Kildare, Offaly and Laois, are currently in lockdown because of the spread of Covid-19, particularly in meat plants.

    It was interesting in last night's figures that 26 of the 56 new cases were in Kildare, which is a relatively small county, although close to Dublin, and only 13 were in Dublin.

    That in a way is the background to which the cabinet will be meeting this afternoon to discuss the recommendations from the National Public Health Emergency Team.