13/03/2020

Sinn Fein Call For Immediate School Closures

Stormont's deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill has said schools, colleges and universities should close immediately.

The Sinn Fein Vice President called for "decisive and coordinated action" to manage the spread of Covid-19.

In an apparent split among political leaders, First Minister Arlene Foster is in support of the UK-wide strategy to keep schools open.

Her Sinn Fein counterpart, however, said Northern Ireland should follow the Republic of Ireland by implementing a blanket closure.

Ms O'Neill said she is acting on the concerns of local families, many of whom have chosen not to send their children to school this morning.

"To protect the public, schools and colleges should now be closed.

"There has been contradictory medical evidence and in that context my view is that we should err on the side of caution."

She continued: "Now is the time to take action. Now is the time to ensure that all schools are closed. That universities and colleges are closed. That needs to happen immediately."

The comments come after joint heads of government Arlene Foster and Michelle O'Neill last night said it was not yet time to close schools.
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Meanwhile, Green Party Leader Clare Bailey has called for an all-island approach to public safety measures to prioritise those most at risk across society.

The south Belfast MLA said: "It's time for a Covid-19 island wide response plan and a disaster recovery plan to deal with the fall out of this crisis for our citizens.

"We know that schools will close at some point, yet there is no plan for working parents or families facing loss of income. We know that many small businesses face going to the wall, yet there is no mitigation measures in place for SMEs. We know that people in housing stress may struggle against eviction or homelessness and there is no sign of a safety net.

"The scientific and public health experts are quite clear on how this virus will affect the population. The Prime Minister warned that we will lose loved ones. We only need to look to other nations to see how this crisis will unfold.

"Governments and policy makers must take urgent action and initiate emergency social policies to lessen the fall out of this crisis for our citizens. In Northern Ireland, that means an island wide response which prioritises those most at risk across our society."



(JG/CM)

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