Coronavirus: NI Executive will ‘revisit indoor family meetings’

Arlene FosterImage copyright

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Arlene Foster said scientific advice suggested that indoor visits were too risky at this time

The executive will revisit whether people in NI can visit immediate family indoors, when it meets on Thursday, First Minister Arlene Foster has said.

Ministers agreed to ease more lockdown restrictions as part of the first step of their recovery plan, so long as social distancing is followed.

People who do not share a household can meet outdoors in up to groups of six.

They still cannot meet immediate family indoors, despite it being included in step one of the plan.

A further seven Covid-19 related deaths have been recorded by Northern Ireland’s Department of Health, bringing its total to 489.

Four of the deaths happened since Monday, three other deaths happened earlier but have only now been added to the department’s total.

The latest figures on the department’s dashboard show a further 20 confirmed positive cases of the virus, bringing that total to 4,421.

Last week, the executive published its five-phase blueprint for recovery in Northern Ireland, but it did not have a timetable.

The executive has maintained that not all aspects of each step will be implemented at the same time.

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On Monday, the executive agreed that churches and places of worship can open for private prayer and outdoor activities that do not involve shared contact with hard surfaces, such as golf and tennis, will be permitted.

Drive-in cinemas and drive-in music events are also permitted.

In other developments on Tuesday:

The first minister said scientific advice provided to the executive suggested that indoor visits were too risky at this time.

“There’s a clear desire for people to be together but we have to make sure we take baby steps, tentative steps and when we have the medical advice that we can move, we will move,” Mrs Foster told BBC NI’s Good Morning Ulster programme.

“It was felt we should defer the issue around meeting inside at this time.”

The first minister said she recognised people would be disappointed, but that the executive would “revisit” the matter later this week.

Mrs Foster said the executive would also explore whether “very small” weddings could be permitted.

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PA Media

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Drive-through church services will now be allowed, in line with social distancing and public hygiene guidelines

On Monday, the Department of Health announced six more Covid-19 related deaths in Northern Ireland, bringing its total to 482.

A separate weekly report from the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (Nisra) showed that 599 deaths had been recorded, up to 8 May, in total, because its figures record all fatalities where coronavirus is mentioned on a death certificate.

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill asked people to “bear with us” on Monday, and said as soon as the advice changed, the executive would move to lift the restriction on visiting family indoors.

“We will get there and we’ll get there sooner, if we all keep doing what we’re doing,” she added.

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