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Live Reporting

All times stated are UK

  1. Goodnight and take care

    That's it for today's coverage of how Northern Ireland is coping with the coronavirus pandemic.

    We will be back tomorrow morning to bring you further developments.

  2. Trade union chief warns of '100,000' job cuts

    Owen Reidy, assistant general secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, said there could be up to 100,000 workers laid off in the coming period.

    "The Republic of Ireland are suggesting the figure there is about 400,000. When you compare our economy and theirs, I think 100,000 is not an exaggeration," he said.

    Owen Reidy
    Image caption: Owen Reidy, ICTU assistant general secretary, warns of tens of thousands of job cuts

    Ernst and Young NI chief economist Neil Gibson added that there are businesses which have no customers, are shut, and have no idea when they can reopen.

  3. Executive 'united over coronavirus response'

    Mr Swann said the executive is united in terms of how to tackle the coronavirus pandemic in Northern Ireland.

    Robin Swann

    First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill had differences of opinion over when schools should close.

    "There is a joined approach from our executive at this point in time," he said.

  4. Call for more ventilators

    Ventilators are vital in the treatment of patients whose lungs have been attacked by the infection.


    Mr Swann said health authorities had "reached out in the past week", through Invest NI, "to those manufacturers across Northern Ireland who can actually step up and re-tool and produce ventilators and help us meet that need that we will need".

    There are currently 139 ventilators and 40 more have been ordered.

  5. 'Work ongoing to secure more protective gear'

    NHS staff and those working in care homes say they are being put at risk during the coronavirus outbreak because of a lack of protective gear.

    In relation to protective equipment for staff members in care and nursing homes, Mr McBride said health authorities are working to secure additional personal protective equipment (PPE).

    Protective gear
  6. 'Apply the right measures at the right time'

    Dr McBride said it was important to apply the right measures to tackle coronavirus at the right time.

    Michael McBride

    “When we apply these measures, we’re going to have to sustain them for a very long time.

    "Apply them too soon, and you get all of the disbenefits, and you don’t necessarily get all of the benefits.

    "Every country around Europe, including the Republic of Ireland, is at a different stage in the spread of this virus."

  7. NI's testing figures

    Mark Carruthers points out that the total number of tests carried out in NI so far is 1,646, compared with 7,000 in the Republic of Ireland.

    “Current capacity [for testing] in the Republic of Ireland, if you work it out at population level, is the same as ours," Mr McBride says.

    He said Northern Ireland’s figures were comparable to those in England, Wales and Scotland.

  8. NI-Ireland cooperation 'second to none'

    Mr Swann said the cooperation between Northern Ireland and the Republic on coronavirus has been “second to none”.

    Interviewer Mark Carruthers says people here feel that we are “behind the curve” when we compare ourselves to how the Republic has handled the situation and asks why we are not testing more in Northern Ireland?


    “We will, and are, ramping up our testing very significantly,” said Mr McBride.

    “When you look back to when we started testing some many weeks ago, we’ve had a five-fold increase already, that will go up four fold in the next 10 days."

    He said testing will be expanded more widely when they have the capacity to do so.

  9. Plans to bring back retired staff

    Mr Swann said plans to bring the registration of third year medical nurses forward would put 880 nurses on to hospital wards.

    “We will need everyone of those individuals. We’re also looking at bringing back retired staff as well, should that be nurses, should it be GPs, should it be social workers."


    He added: "Be under no illusion of the pressure that our health service will come under, and that’s why we’re putting these plans in place now."

  10. 'It will be burned into our memories what we did'

    Northern Ireland chief medical officer Dr Michael McBride told the programme that people will look back on the actions that are taken at this time.

    "We will look back at Covid 19 and will remember a time before Covid 19 and we’ll remember a time after Covid 19," he said.

    "It will transform how we deliver health and social care. It will be burned into our memories in terms of what we did, the steps that we all take as a society, to ensure that those people, who need access to healthcare, get access to healthcare."

    Dr Michael McBride
  11. 'The nightmare, worst-case scenario'

    Robin Swann

    Health Minister Robin Swann tells BBC's The View programme that Northern Ireland could be looking at "up to 14,000 deaths if we go for the nightmare scenario of 80% infection and 1% mortality".

    “What we are saying very clearly to people is: ‘you could affect that number today’," he said.

    “The actions that people take today, affect that number.”

    He added: "I don't want to be alarmist... if we take an 80% infection rate of the population of Northern Ireland, and we take a 1% mortality rate out of that, we're looking at in the region of between 14,000 and 15,000 deaths. That is nightmare, worst-case scenario."

    He said people needed to be responsible.

    "You may think you’re going to be fine. Think about your father. Think about your mother. Think about your grandfather. Think about your next door neighbour.

    "Because your actions today will have an adverse affect in a fortnight’s time on those individuals. So be responsible."

  12. Boojum lays off 90 employees

    Belfast Mexican burrito bar Boojum is the latest NI hospitality business to announce redundancies.

    In a statement, Managing Director David Maxwell said it had temporarily laid off 90 staff "with a massively heavy heart".


    Appealing for government support, Mr Maxwell said sales dropped by 80% in 10 days

    "This has been a living nightmare for Boojum and everyone in the hospitality industry," he said.

    "Businesses can't solve this size of problem on their own."

  13. CCEA welcomes announcement from education minister

    The Northern Ireland examination body CCEA has welcomed "the clarity" from the education minister over examinations.

    Peter Weir announced earlier today that GCSE, AS and A2 exams would not be taking place in the summer, but that grades would still be awarded.

    In a statement, CCEA said it would continue to work "urgently" with the Department for Education and other stakeholders to "finalise a solution for examinations".

    Image caption: CCEA said its solution will be "fair and reliable"

    The body said it has "a range of tried and tested methods for awarding grades", which it will explore "alongside other options" with counterparts across the UK.

    The statement said it would prioritise A-level examinations, then GCSE terminal examinations, the AS qualifications and finally modular GCSE.

  14. More flexible delivery rules for restaurants, cafes and pubs

    Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon has written to local councils requesting more relaxed delivery rules for restaurants, cafes and public houses.

    View more on twitter
  15. Leo Varadkar and Boris Johnson agree to 'align actions'

    The leaders spoke during a phone call on Thursday evening

    The British and Irish prime ministers have agreed to "align actions, in so far as possible" on tackling the coronavirus pandemic.

    Leo Varadkar and Boris Johnson discussed the approach taken by their governments in combatting the virus during a 20-minute call on Thursday evening.

    Leo Varadkar and Boris Johnson
    Image caption: Leo Varadkar and Boris Johnson pictured in October

    Mr Varadkar welcomed the decision to close schools across the UK saying it brought "a greater closeness" between the position in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

    The leaders also discussed developments in Europe and internationally and agreed on the importance of close co-operation in the working of the common travel area between Britain and Ireland.

  16. Weddings and civil ceremonies restricted as services reduced

    foyle martime festival
    Image caption: This year's Foyle Maritime festival is among the events to have been cancelled or postponed.

    A number of Northern Ireland councils have announced further reductions to services and restrictions around access to public buildings.

    • Civil ceremonies in Fermanagh and Omagh Distict Council buildings have been restricted to the couple and two witnesses. All council events in the district between now and September have been postponed or cancelled.
    • The council has closed its buildings to the public but parks and public toilets remain open and recycling centres.
    • Causeway Coast and Glens Council says it will not facilitate any weddings or civic ceremonies due to take place between 23 March and the end of April. Ceremonies taking place before 23 March will be restricted to eight guests, council said.
    • Cremations will continue at Roselawn Crematorium but family members can not attend, Belfast City Council say. The chapel at the crematorium will close on Monday.
    • Derry City and Strabane District Council is phasing in the closure of play parks over the coming days.The number of vehicles entering the council's recycling centres is also to be limited from Friday.
  17. Children of 'key workers' to be given access to schools

    Education Minister Peter Weir has revealed that a limited number of schools will continue to operate for the children of "key workers", including doctors, nurses, midwives, paramedics, social workers, home carers and staff required to maintain the health and social care sector. BBC News NI Education Correspondent Robbie Meredith has tweeted the statement in full.

    View more on twitter

    Mr Weir said that after next week, the scheme will be expanded to the children of other key staff, including haulage workers, police, the NI Fire and Rescue Service, the NI Prison Service and those involved in the delivery of oil, gas, electricity and water.

  18. 'The most serious thing you'll see in your lifetime'

    The professor of public health at University of Bristol says coronavirus "is the most serious thing you will ever see in your lifetime".

    "Whether you are five years old or 85-years-old, you’ll never have seen anything like this and I would plead with people to take this ultra seriously," Prof Gabriel Scally said.

    The only safe option is "to behave as if you had the virus and you want to make sure not to give it to anyone else", the former regional director of public health in England added.

    Gabriel Scally
    Image caption: Prof Scally urged people to behave as if they had the virus

    Speaking on BBC Newsline, he described the increased testing announced by Robin Swann earlier today as good news.

    "There is hope we can beat this virus, but you can’t fight a fire blindfolded, so we need to know where it is in the community."

  19. NI football body looking at financial assistance for club

    Times are tough for everyone right now and football clubs are no exception.

    League of Ireland club Sligo Rovers has announced temporary lay-offs while in Northern Ireland, the Northern Ireland Football League (NIFL) says it is examining what can be done to financially help clubs.

    NIFL football

    NIFL has suspended games in light of the spread of coronavirus.

    The governing body indicated on Wednesday that it was setting up a steering group to look at a range of matters caused by the outbreak.

    Managing Director Andrew Johnston said NIFL was trying to put measures in place to assist its member clubs.