#Open journalism No news is bad news

Your contributions will help us continue to deliver the stories that are important to you

Support The Journal
Dublin: 5°C Thursday 25 February 2021
Advertisement

Northern Ireland: People told not to make Easter plans as lockdown is extended to April

Primary school pupils in the first three class years will return to face-to-face learning on 8 March.

Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster.
Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster.
Image: PA Images

Updated Feb 18th 2021, 6:55 PM

PEOPLE IN NORTHERN Ireland are being asked not to plan or book anything for Easter as the lockdown there has been extended until April. 

The Stormont Executive confirmed this afternoon that the lockdown is being extended until 1 April but people are being advised that this “won’t be the date that everything opens up”. 

This year, 1 April is Holy Thursday with Easter Sunday three days later on 4 April. 

Northern Ireland’s lockdown had been due to expire on 5 March but most of the elements are to be extended.

Some primary school pupils will return to class on 8 March and restrictions on outdoor socialising is to be eased slightly.

Click-and-collect will be also allowed for some retailers that were previously categorised as non-essential retailers. 

Speaking this afternoon, First Minister Arlene Foster said that “a full lifting of these restrictions is not possible at this point”. 

“We’re now at a time for patience and persistence, we believe the best way to win this stage of our battle against Covid-19 is to dig in, to secure the position we hold, and then to slowly move forward,” she told a press conference in Dungannon, Co Tyrone.

We understand and absolutely realise that people would like us to move in a faster manner in lifting the restrictions. But when you’re in a leadership position and when you realise the risks that come with that, sometimes you have to deliver that you have to go a little bit slower in relation to the restrictions.

The easing of restrictions on outdoor meetings means that from 8 March up to 10 people from no more than two households will be able to meet up in a park or public space. 

The measures are to be reviewed again on 18 March with Foster saying that the Executive will also “give direction” around Easter on that date. 

“We do obviously understand that Easter is a very important time for many families, and so will want to give advice at that time, so 18 March is the next date that will be reviewing all of the restrictions,” she said. 

Foster said the executive would publish a “decision making framework” for the executive’s exit from lockdown strategy on 1 March.

Northern Ireland Finance Minister Conor Murphy emphasised that “small and gradual steps are crucial” to easing restrictions and said that he too was concerned about Easter. 

“The advice would be not to be doing anything or booking anything for the Easter weekend, there will be a review as Arlene has said 18 of March. But I think the way the advice has been given today in that all of the numbers are going in the right direction,” he said. 

It’s a very gradual pace, there’s no rapid reduction and then obviously the vaccination progress process is rolling out very well, but this is going to be a slow re-entry into a more normal life. And I don’t think that this side of Easter there would be any serious easing of restrictions.

Murphy said inpatient numbers were still “very high” and that the lockdown exit strategy would provide more detail on how the region would chart a path back to normality.

The minister said: “While it’s not possible to provide the certainty that many people are undoubtedly seeking we do want to give people an indication of the sequencing of how the restrictions could be lifted when the time is right to do so and we hope next week to finalise our pathway out of the restrictions, which we will bring forward to the Assembly and the public as soon as possible.”

Schools 

The plan for the resumption of education will see primary school pupils in the first three class years (P1 – P3) return to face-to-face learning on 8 March.

Only vulnerable children and those of key workers have been in classrooms since January.

On 22 March, secondary pupils in key exam years – year groups 12 to 14 – will return to school.

P1-P3 pupils will revert to remote learning for a week on that date – for the week prior to the Easter holidays – to minimise the impact on infection rates of years 12-14 returning.

No decisions have been taken on whether other year groups will return to class after the Easter holidays.

#Open journalism No news is bad news Support The Journal

Your contributions will help us continue to deliver the stories that are important to you

Support us now

Foster said during today’s briefing that it was important to have exam years returning: 

We took a balanced view that given that these young people in years 12 to 14 were not going to be able to sit exams we needed to have some sort of objective assessment of their ability. And in order to do that in the time period that’s available, then we did have to bring them back before Easter. 

Click and collect

At today’s Executive meeting, ministers also agreed to make relaxations to allow “click and collect” shopping from some outlets previously categorised as non-essential retailers.

From 8 March, click and collect will be permitted for shops selling baby equipment, clothing and footwear, and electrical goods.

Since Christmas, people in Northern Ireland have only been able to leave home for essential purposes such as work or exercise.

The deaths of another six people diagnosed with Covid-19 were announced by Stormont’s Department of Health today along with an additional 342 confirmed cases of the virus.

A total of 418 coronavirus hospital inpatients were recorded at midnight, 51 of whom were in intensive care.

- With reporting by Press Association

About the author:

Rónán Duffy

Read next:

COMMENTS (30)

This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
write a comment

    Leave a commentcancel