13/03/2020

Local Coronavirus Response Under 'Daily Review'

Political leaders in Northern Ireland have said measures to combat the spread of coronavirus, including the closure of schools, are under daily review.

A total of 20 people have tested positive for the Covid-19 strain of the virus in Northern Ireland.

Yesterday saw Taoiseach Leo Varadkar announce a 16-day lockdown period in the Republic of Ireland, including the closure of schools, colleges, universities and childcare facilities as well as restrictions on public gatherings. There are now 70 confirmed cases in the Republic.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said while the UK will move towards the delay phase of the virus, schools will continue to open as normal in the interim.

He said this is likely to change at some point in the future, but in the meantime, closing schools "could do more harm than good".
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The differing responses between the UK, where 596 cases have been confirmed, and the Republic of Ireland prompted calls for clarity on the situation in Northern Ireland.

In statements released on Thursday, the First and deputy First Ministers said the situation is under daily review.

Sinn Fein Vice President Michelle O'Neill said: "We are facing a global health pandemic that has never ever been seen before.

"I understand that you are feeling very anxious and very fearful for what the coronavirus means for you and your family.

"I want to give you a firm commitment to do everything to protect your health for all of the people across this Ireland."

Ms O'Neill said political leaders will "take the right action at the right time", including closing schools when necessary.

Health Ministers north and south of the border are due to meet tomorrow, Saturday 14, to address the next steps.



(JG/CM)

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