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Live Reporting

All times stated are UK

  1. Goodnight

    That's it for Wednesday's live coverage of how Northern Ireland is dealing with the coronavirus outbreak.

    Join us on Thursday for up-to-the-minute news, reaction and analysis of the ongoing situation.

    Bye for now.

    Test tubes
  2. 'Allow time to develop a vaccine'

    NI's chief medical officer stresses there are "well-rehearsed plans" in place to tackle coronavirus.

    Michael McBride says there are plans to "open up" other ventilators in other areas.

    "We are planning at a UK level, how we flex up that capacity as far as we can."

    mask and gown

    He says it is important to allow time to develop a vaccine.

    "The brightest and best scientists across the world are working day and night to develop a vaccine," he said.However, he added that, unfortunately, we are quite some time away - "many months, certainly not this year".

  3. 'As we go into the delay phase, the message will change'

    Northern Ireland's Chief Medical Officer, Michael McBride, tells Stephen Nolan we are in that “in-between period”.

    “We still remain in containment and as we go into the delay phase - that pulling down that peak - the messaging will change," he said.

    Michael McBride

    “Very soon there will be key messages to older people – your mum or grandparents and advice for you in terms of supporting them.

    "That isn’t advice for this week and probably not the next week," he adds.

    The message the public health agency is trying to get out is #pulldownthatpeak

  4. What about our older folk?

    Stephen Nolan is wondering about older people during this outbreak. For example, can his mum continue to go to the bowls?

    Should he let her get the bus or take her around in his car?

    Phillip veal

    Dr Philip Veal from the PHA says it's important to remember we are in the containment phase.

    “We have 18 cases in NI, all of which can be linked to travel elsewhere or contact with confirmed cases elsewhere," he says.

    “Everybody can play a part in bringing the curve down - hand washing as often as possible.

    “Cough or sneeze into a tissue and put the tissue in a bin – then wash your hands.

    “If you doctor advises saying at home - do so.”

  5. Public transport restrictions not on cards

    Phillip Veal from the Public Health Agency says it is not recommending any restrictions on public transport at this moment in time.

    He was speaking during a special programme about coronavirus on BBC One NI's Top Table hosted by Stephen Nolan tonight.

    Top Table

    Mr Veal explained: “For the infection to spread you need very close, prolonged contact for about 15 minutes. On short journeys that may not happen; you may not be sitting near to them.

    “Also, individuals are only likely to be highly infectious when they are very, very symptomatic and unwell."

  6. Health Secretary says government 'will give the NHS whatever it needs'

    Health Secretary Matt Hancock has been updating MPs on the government's response.

    He says 456 people have tested positive for coronavirus in the UK and eight people have died.

    "We will do the right thing, at the right time," he said.

    "I know how worrying this is. I know people have deep concerns. I know everyone will play their part in this national effort to defeat the virus"

    Matt Hancock

    "The best way to beat it is for us to work together," he added.

    "We will give the NHS whatever it needs."

  7. Nipsa suspends action after safe staffing assurances

    Nipsa, which joined other trade unions in calling for safe staffing levels in the health service, says it has suspended "all action short of strike action" after it received assurances from the Department of Health "to allow discussions to progress safe staffing matters".

    The union's health official, Maria Morgan, said: "This decision was also taken mindful of the public health emergency we all face."

    Nipsa strike

    She added: "We can now assure our membership that discussions and commitments given can allow us to engage in discussions that will deal specifically with our membership's concerns in relation to the high number of vacant posts, the delays in recruitment to posts, training, career progression and work life balance etc.”

  8. Nine new cases in Republic of Ireland

    Nine new cases have been identified in the Republic of Ireland, bringing the total to 43.

    At a press conference on Wednesday evening, Ireland's Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan said none of the cases was community related.

    "For each of the nine today, we have been able to identify the source of the infection," he said.

  9. Church guidance to protect 'most vulnerable'

    In new guidance, the Catholic Church says "anointments for confirmation and for sacrament of the sick will be done with surgical glove or cotton bud".

    The celebration of mass will "continue as normal", however, those with underlying conditions or are "considered vulnerable" are "dispensed from their Sunday obligation to attend".

    The church also says that Holy Communion will be "received in the hand until the current crisis has passed".


    On funerals, the advice is that the "vulnerable" and those with underlying conditions should not attend and that there should be no handshakes amoung mourners.

    The church says it acknowledges there will be "sacrifice for all", however, "we encourage a positive engagement in order that the most vulnerable amongst us can be protected and so that the coronavirus can be contained."

  10. Taxi firm may suspend drivers' accounts

    Uber taxi

    Uber will tell riders and drivers that it may temporarily suspend the accounts of anyone who has tested positive for coronavirus or has been exposed to it, the company said.

    "We have a dedicated global team, guided by the advice of a consulting public health expert, working to respond in every market where we operate around the world," Uber said. "We've already helped drivers in some affected areas, and we're working to quickly implement this worldwide."

    It said compensation would be available to drivers.

  11. UK interest rates cut in emergency move

    An emergency cut in interest rates has been announced by The Bank of England to shore up the economy amid the coronavirus outbreak.

    Policymakers reduced rates from 0.75% to 0.25%, taking borrowing costs back down to the lowest level in history.

    The Bank said it would also free up billions of pounds of extra lending power to help banks support firms.

    Read more here.

    People wearing masks in central London
  12. Belfast fiction festival postponed

    An international crime fiction festival has been postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak.

    NOIRELAND was due to take place in Belfast on Saturday 28 March.

    Festival organisers said they had taken the difficult decision to postpone the festival until October to prioritise the health of it participants and audience members.

    NOIRELAND will now take place on Saturday 10 October at the Clayton Hotel, Belfast.

  13. Two months since Stormont returned

    How have priorities changed?

    Jayne McCormack

    BBC News NI political reporter

    It's two months exactly since the Northern Ireland Executive returned following a three-year hiatus.

    At the time, their main challenge was settling back in to life on the hill and taking decisions stalled by the absence of devolution.

    Prime Minister Boris Johnson meeting the new executive ministers at Stormont Castle

    The Covid-19 outbreak is not the only difficult issue facing the parties, but for now it is the most pressing one.

    Stormont has set up its own contingency planning group in the event that the assembly could be temporarily closed, or that some MLAs are unable to get to Parliament Buildings for work, with video-conferencing just one option being discussed.

    Read more here.

  14. 'Pandemic doesn't change our approach'

    Health Minister Robin Swann tells BBC News NI the fact coronavirus has now been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation does not change the government's approach.

    "That doesn't change how we approach things here in Northern Ireland at this moment in time," he says.

    "The UK still remains at a moderate level, we remain in a containment phase."

    Robin Swann

    He adds that plans are in place as to how we move to the next phase in the future.

  15. Latest coronavirus news

    Coronavirus testing

    Here are the headlines from Northern Ireland, the rest of the UK and the Republic of Ireland:

    • Two new cases have been confirmed in Northern Ireland, bringing the total number to 18
    • The first death linked to coronavirus has been recorded in the Republic of Ireland - an elderly woman who had underlying health conditions died in a Dublin hospital.
    • 246 tests have been carried out in Northern Ireland, 228 of which were negative
    • 10 new cases have also been identified in the Republic of Ireland, bringing the total to 34
    • The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the UK has now reached 460
    • Six patients with coronavirus have died in hospitals in the UK
    • Ryanair has cancelled all international flights to and from Italy from Saturday until 9 April
    • Aer Lingus has cancelled all flights to and from Italy until 3 April
    • St Patrick's Day parades in Belfast, Londonderry, Downpatrick and Newry, and across the Republic of Ireland are cancelled
    • First Minister Arlene Foster and deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill announce they have cancelled their visit to the US
    • Trinity College Dublin has announced lectures will be delivered online for the rest of the term