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NI Executive will detail plans this week to ease Covid-19 lockdown

'We will not keep the restrictions in place any longer than is absolutely necessary,' the First Minister said

The Northern Ireland Executive is currently working on its plan to move from lockdown.

And it is expected to make more details known later this week.

But in the daily briefing, it was revealed that the publication would not necessarily include dates.

First Minister Arlene Foster said the loosening of restrictions needed to be “science-led and proportionate” and Ministers would be guided by latest evidence.

She said we are now in the sevenrth week of restrictions that nobody wanted, but added that if they had not been implemented the first wave would have been a lot worse for Northern Ireland than it is.

She said the health service would have been overwhelmed.

But the First Minister cautioned that Covid-19 had not yet been defeated and would not be until a vaccine is trialled and in place.

“Social distancing and other meaures are likely to be with us for some time,” said Mrs Foster.

Mrs Foster said that all governments are “grappling with the implications of crisis” and she said these would be “implications for society for many years to come”

“We need you all still to be on your guard,” she added, as she asked people to continue to adhere to social distancing, washing hands eand other measures.

“We will not keep the restrictions in place any longer than is absolutely necessary,” she said.

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said the publication of a plan later this week was “not a green light” for people to return to doing what they were doing.

She described these recent weeks as a “tsunami of coronavirus” and said recovery from the crisis was not going to be easy but it was necessary to work together to help recover the economy.

In that regard, the Deputy First Minister also welcomed Finance Minister Conor Murphy’s announcement today (Monday) of over £700 million of new funding for infrastructure, regeneration, and tourism projects across the north.

The investment is the result of the Executive today agreeing to match fund £562 million for City and Growth Deals and £55 million for the Inclusive Future Fund.

This match funding along with the British Government funding announced in May 2019 brings the total investment to £1.2 billion.

The Executive has also agreed to provide up to an additional £100 million for complementary projects where partners can demonstrate a viable capital project which is complementary to the City/Growth Deal proposals.

Minister Murphy said: “This investment package signals our desire to build a productive, regionally balanced and inclusive economy.

“The Executive is currently reacting to the COVID-19 emergency. We have already provided over £500 million in grants and rates relief to support businesses survive the ongoing pandemic.

“We also need to plan for the longer-term. This investment of over £700 million provide investment in local areas and much needed jobs and offers hope for the future.”

The package provides at least £700 million for the Belfast Region (which includes Antrim and Newtownabbey, Ards and North Down, Lisburn and Castlereagh, Mid and East Antrim and Newry and Mourne council areas), £252 million for the Mid, South & West, £210 million for Derry City and Strabane and £72 million for Causeway Coast and Glens.

The funding will complement funding announced for the North West including the Magee Medical School and will deliver a number of potential projects such as; Derry’s riverside development, Phase II of the Belfast Rapid Transit, extension of the Gobbins, Newry Southern Relief road and a visitor destination experience at the Mourne Mountains.

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