Coronavirus: No dash for the lockdown exit, says Arlene Foster

By Jayne McCormack
BBC News NI Political Reporter

  • Published
Belfast's streets are deserted due to the lockdownImage source, Pacemaker
Image caption,
Belfast's streets are deserted due to the lockdown, with many businesses having to close their doors too

There will be "no dash for the exit" from the coronavirus lockdown, First Minister Arlene Foster has said.

She said that the executive was "carefully considering" how Northern Ireland should emerge from the restrictions.

Ministers must scrutinise the restrictions every three weeks, with the next review due to happen by 9 May.

Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill said a plan for recovery would also be published next week.

On Friday, the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (Nisra) provided its weekly statistical breakdown, which details all deaths with Covid-19 recorded on a death certificate.

Out of the 393 deaths Nisra recorded by 24 April, 158 - 40.1% - occurred in care homes.

In the Republic of Ireland, a further 34 people with Covid-19 have died, bringing the death toll there to 1,265.

'Months extending to years'

In recent days, there have been calls for some lockdown restrictions to be lifted, following an initial decision to reopen cemeteries last week.

DUP Environment Minister Edwin Poots had called for churches and garden centres to reopen on a controlled basis, but this was later ruled out by Health Minister Robin Swann, who said NI had not reached the point where restrictions could be eased.

Image source, Pacemaker
Image caption,
Arlene Foster said we would have to find ways to live with the virus until it was defeated

Speaking at the executive's daily press conference on Friday, Mrs Foster said NI would emerge from lockdown "one step at a time" and only in line with advice about what could be done safely.

"Until a vaccine is discovered and circulated, social distancing is going to dictate for some time, maybe months extending to years, how we live, how we are educated, how we work, how we are entertained and how we shop," she said.

"We will have to find ways to live with the virus until we defeat it."

Ms O'Neill stressed there would not be any "sweeping changes" to the regulations, which were introduced at the end of March.

"We understand people want to see light at the end of the tunnel, that people want to have hope for a post-Covid world," added the deputy first minister.

"Trust us when we say we will come out the other side of this."

In other developments on Friday:

Meanwhile, there has been a noticeable drop in the number of spot fines the PSNI has issued in recent days in relation to the enforcement of lockdown regulations.

Just 19 fines were issued over the past week, according to figures released by the police.

Last month they were issuing an average of about 90 a-week.

The development comes after the executive amended the law, making it clear that reasonable travel was permitted for the purpose of exercise.