Coronavirus: Five-step plan for Northern Ireland to emerge from lockdown unveiled

May 12, 2020

Northern Ireland's devolved government has published a five-step plan for gradually emerging from the coronavirus lockdown as science permits.

Unlike plans announced by the Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Irish counterpart Leo Varadkar, the Stormont scheme is not time-specific.

While it will be reviewed every three weeks, the power-sharing coalition in Belfast agreed their plan would be led by science, not an "arbitrary timeframe".

Their message remains 'Stay Home, Save Lives'.

The implementation of each phase will be dictated by medical and scientific advice, the capacity of the NHS and the impact on wider public health.

In step one, groups of four to six people who do not share a household will be allowed to meet outdoors while maintaining social distancing.

Outdoor spaces and public sport amenities will be included in the first step.

Walking, running, cycling, some water activities, golf and tennis are also in stage one.

The current position from the devolved government just says exercise is permitted.

People who are unable to work from home will be encouraged to go to work on a phased basis if the R reproductive rate at which COVID-19 spreads continues to decline below one.

R is a measure of how many people, on average, will be infected for every one person who has the disease.

If the R is one, then one person with the disease infects one other person. As long as the R value is below one, the number of daily cases will continue to fall.

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Large outdoor-based retailers such as garden centres will be permitted to reopen in the first step, as well as drive-through cinemas.

Drive-through church services will be available and churches will open for private prayer at an early stage.

In step five, large indoor gatherings, nightclubs, concerts, close physical contact sports, restaurants, cafes, pubs and early years education will be included.

First Minister Arlene Foster said: "We recognise how difficult the current restrictions are. But those restrictions, and the determined people of Northern Ireland who have adhered to them, have saved lives and continue to do so.

"We don't want to keep any restriction in place any longer than we have to, but in relaxing any measure we must be cognisant of the potential effects in the transmission of the virus and our ability to save lives.

"The executive's recovery strategy sets out a pathway for us to emerge from lockdown in the safest way possible."

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