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Live Reporting

Colm Kelpie, Jordan Kenny and David Wilson

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.

    Here are some of the main developments from today:

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

    Goodnight and take care.

  2. School guidance published

    General guidance for schools has also been published by the Department of Education, and can be found here.

  3. Letter from Dept of Education chief to school principals published

    A letter from Derek Baker, the permanent secretary at the Department of Education, to school principals has also been published.

    It can be read here

  4. FAQs for schools published

    Education Minister provides advice document for schools opening for children of key workers

    Education Minister Peter Weir has published a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) document for schools opening for children of key workers.

    It can be found here.

    Points from the document include:

    • The arrangement extends to children from pre-school up to the end of Year 10. It also covers children who are vulnerable;
    • Children attending school or pre-school settings will not experience a continuation of their usual classroom based teacher-led education routine;
    • They will be able to access appropriate learning opportunities that they would otherwise have accessed at home;
    • Teaching and non-teaching staff who are not ill, self-isolating or at risk (as defined by PHA guidance) should be available;
    Peter weir
    • Depending on the number of staff available, consideration may be given to developing a rota for staff in each educational setting, based on staff working a reduced number of hours per day/days per week or alternate weeks without any loss in pay;
    • It may include the attendance of staff at a setting other than their own, or the attendance of children at a setting other than their normal setting;
    • From Monday, normal school transport will not be running. However as the situation develops and is assessed, this may change;
    • The plans also cover nursery schools and nursery units in primary schools, as well as special schools;
    • Parents, for now, should send children with a packed lunch.
  5. Changes to job and benefit offices

    Those receiving benefit payments will no longer need to sign on or present medical certificates at job offices to receive payments, the communities minister has said.

    Deirdre Hargey said all routine appointments at jobs and benefits offices have also been suspended.

    Ms Hargey said the decision was made "to protect those visiting the offices but also our workers who are working inside the offices".

    benefits office sign

    "All those already receiving benefits will continue to receive their payments and that's a critical factor," she said.

    "No one will be penalised for not attending that office."

    Ms Hargey also said additional telephone support has been brought in to help those making new claims.

    "We have seen a huge demand - over 300% rise in the demand coming towards the social security system and we're trying to readjust our resources to ensure that we're picking up the phone and responding to those who are in need."

    The minister said the situation will be kept "under constant review".

  6. Educational work at NI schools comes to an end

    Educational work at schools in Northern Ireland schools has ended.

    The First Minister Arlene Foster said they are being “repurposed” to provide online planning and resource packs.

    A list of key workers whose children will need to be provided for while they are working includes: healthcare, nursery and teaching staff, members of the police, fire and prison services and those keeping public transport and the electric network operating.

    Children whose parents work in food distribution are also a priority, according to a document published on the education department’s website.

    Peter Weir and Arlene Foster

    Teachers, principals and parents have called for clarity around school closures from Monday.

    The Education Minister Peter Weir said the schools are only being opened to key workers who cannot find alternative childcare arrangements.

    GCSE and A-level exams are not going ahead as planned this summer due to the pandemic.

    Instead, teachers will use measures such as past performance to come to a fair assessment of ability, Mr Weir said.

    Teachers will continue to be working throughout this period and remote learning will be provided, the minister added.

  7. Govts welcome NI 'leadership and concerted action'

    The UK and Irish governments have issued a joint statement after the Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis and Tanaiste (Irish deputy prime minister) Simon Coveney spoke on the phone.

    The governments welcomed the "leadership and concerted action" of the Northern Ireland Executive and said there is "a clear need for cooperation across the island of Ireland."

    View more on twitter
  8. More reaction to chancellor's measures

    Manufacturing NI chief Stephen Kelly says the chancellor has announced the "most extraordinary economic intervention."

    He says the sector was "not out of the woods yet" and would "spend the weekend seeking the detail and making a full assessment of what all this means".

    Chancellor Rishi Sunak

    Belfast Chamber of Commerce CEO Simon Hamilton said it will help businesses forced to close or who will close in the coming weeks "keep workers on the payroll".

    "This is exactly the kind of interaction that we have been claiming for and we hope that this will prevent the need for many employers to lay off staff."

    In a tweet Londonderry Chamber of Commerce said it was a "significant statement from the chancellor".

  9. Retail and hospitality welcome for UK economic measures

    Northern Ireland's business community has been reacting to the UK economic measures announced on Friday.

    Retail NI CEO Glyn Roberts says it's a "welcome move" by the Chancellor.

    "I hope that this will be enough to sustain these workers and their families in these difficult few months ahead."

    He says the establishment of the Covid-19 business support grant scheme needs to be immediate.

    contaclteless payment being carried out

    Hospitality Ulster chief executive Colin Neil said the measures are "a comprehensive package on face value."

    He hopes it has not come too late for some in the industry.

    “This is a comprehensive package on face value, and we hope that this has not come too late for many in our sector.

    "The greater certainty that employers and employees alike have on the salary commitment through the wage protection scheme will reduce anxiety and the fear that people may not have been paid.

    "This will save and retain jobs and businesses alike,” he says.

    Mr Neil also says he "welcomes the direction by the prime minister on closures."

    "It’s not an easy thing to accept, but now we know where we stand and can start the process of full close from tonight.”

  10. Community contingency fund to be introduced

    A community contingency fund to "support people on the frontline" is to be introduced by the communities minister.

    Deirdre Hargey said the fund would help them "do the right thing and to do it now".

    Ms Hargey said the funding will be available where it is needed by groups supporting people who are socially isolated, struggling financially or who cannot access food supplies.

  11. Recruitment drive targets former health workers

    Catherine Smyth

    BBC News NI

    Northern Ireland’s chief nursing officer has outlined detail on the drive to recruit former health professionals.

    It’s part of the Department of Heath’s plans to tackle Covid 19.

    The drive covers staff groups across the range of disciplines and comes alongside initiatives to deploy medical, social work and nursing students.

    The department says the measures together have the potential to boost the HSC workforce by 5,000.

    Professor Charlotte McArdle said these are extraordinary times requiring extraordinary measures.

    She said the response to the recruitment initiatives are “very heartening”

    “I know nursing, midwifery, Allied health professionals, social work and medical students will have concerns. I want them to know they will be supported.

    “These young people are the future of our health service. They are valued and needed by the HSC and we really appreciate their contribution and dedication.

    doctor treating patient

    Department of Health initiatives to date to increase staff numbers include:

    • The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) and the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) have written to those who have given up their registration within the last three years inviting them to return.
    • Similarly the General Medical Council has written out to over 500 NI doctors who have left the register and given up their licence to practice.
    • Third year nursing and midwifery students within the last six months of qualifying will be redeployed to clinical care.
    • Recently retired pharmacists will be contacted in the coming days to ask them to come back to practice.
    • Final year social work students will qualify early on 4 May and will be able to enter the HSC workforce as social workers with immediate effect.
    • The Care Council is writing to all social workers who have retired or left the register in the last three years to invite them to re-enter the workforce.
    • NI health trusts are urgently investigating the opportunity to deploy the approximately 500 third and fourth year medical students on a voluntary basis.
  12. Arlene Foster gives further update on schools

    Asked about school closures and the children of key workers, First Minister Arlene Foster has told BBC Newsline that it is not known how many children will turn up to schools on Monday.

    All schools should be prepared to cater for key workers' children from Monday, Education Minister Peter Weir has said.

    He said only children, up to and including year 10, whose parents provide "essential goods and services", should attend.


    "We estimate it could be between 15% and 20% [of pupils who will turn up]," Mrs Foster said.

    "If that happens, then we will evolve the situation as to ho we deal with those children and how we make sure that they are protected in that environment, that there is social distancing practiced and that they are looked after in the appropriate way."

    She said both parents do not need to be key workers to avail of this measure.

  13. 'We need to protect our families'

    First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill say people need to follow the health advice on social distancing, and that's why bars, restaurants and other venues have been asked to shut.

    Video content

    Video caption: 'People will have to social distance' - Foster
  14. Rugby players in Ireland agree to short-term pay cuts

    Ireland rugby

    Rugby players in Ireland have agreed to take short-term pay cuts because of the coronavirus crisis.

    An Irish Rugby Football Union statement said the country's players' body had accepted "a payment deferral model for all employees".

    The pay cuts, which the IRFU said it hoped would end as soon as possible, will come into effect in April.

    Read more here.

  15. 'People may doubt we can do this but we'll prove them wrong' - Foster

    First Minister Arlene Foster has said she will prove wrong any who may doubt the Executive's ability to work together.

    Mrs Foster said she will do all she can to "protect our elderly and vulnerable".

    "We know there are some people out there who may doubt we can do this together but we just have to prove them wrong," she said.

    "Otherwise we'll not be able to provide the service for our people and I feel very strongly about that."

    Speaking on BBC Radio Ulster's Evening Extra programme the first minister said she continues to call the various "banks of resilience", including her family, that she referred to in the Assembly chamber following the publishing of the RHI inquiry report.

  16. Coronavirus cases in ROI jump to 683

    Latest figures from the Department of Health in the Republic of Ireland reveal a further 126 new confirmed coronavirus cases, bringing the total to 683, with three deaths.

    Coronavirus cases