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Four Covid deaths and 1,217 further cases reported in last 24 hours

There have been four more Covid-related deaths reported by the Department of Health.

Two of the deaths occurred in the last 24 hours, with the other two fatalities occurring just outside the reporting timeframe, according to the official dashboard.

It brings the death toll to 602.

There were a further 1,217 cases reported over the last 24 hours, with 65 in Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon, and a further 97 in Newry, Mourne and Down.

A total of 6,538 individuals were tested in that timeframe.

Meanwhile, the Department of Education is asking schools to use two of their existing Optional Days with the remainder of the additional time off through the use of automatically allocated Exceptional Closure Days.

Schools and other education settings will reopen on Monday, November 2.

Schools will be closed to all pupils during these two weeks including vulnerable children and for children of key workers.

Education Minister Peter Weir said: “I am pleased that the Executive has reached a consensus in relation to schools and education settings.

“Education is a small part of a much wider package of societal response, and I want to emphasise that schools remain a safe environment for children and staff.”

As part of today’s announcement, the Minister said that direct payments will be made to pupils in receipt of Free School Meals during the week of 19 October.

Continuing the Minister said: “As well as ensuring pupils who receive free schools meals are not impacted during this extended half-term break, all non-teaching staff will be paid as normal.

“Schools are closed to all pupils. Principals should only bring staff into school during optional and exceptional closure days where they are unable to work from home. As this is an extension of the half-term break, it is not intended to be used for remote learning.

“The Education Authority (EA) will maintain support for vulnerable children during this period by ensuring essential support services including child protection, continue to operate as normal and maintain regular contact with those families.

“My Department, together with the Department of Health will continue to work together to prioritise those children most at risk.”

Concluding Peter Weir said: “This year has been a stressful time for schools, pupils and parents. I want to thank principals, teachers and school staff for their dedication and commitment to keeping schools a safe and welcoming place for pupils to learn.”

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