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Live Reporting

All times stated are UK

  1. Good evening

    That's the end of our news updates for today on coronavirus in Northern Ireland.

    Join us here tomorrow at 07:30 BST.

  2. 135 more people die in UK, department says

    The Department of Health has reported that in the UK, a further 135 people have died after testing positive for coronavirus, bringing the total number of virus deaths to 42,288.

    In the 24-hour period up to 09:00 on Thursday, 136,516 tests were carried out or dispatched, with 1,218 positive results.

  3. School social distancing guidelines 'mathematically impossible'

    The principal of a primary school in south Belfast says that new guidelines on social distancing in schools is "impossible".

    Earlier today the Northern Ireland Executive agreed that social distancing of 1m (just over 3ft) as opposed to 2m (6ft) is "safe and appropriate" for children and young people at school.

    Speaking on the BBC's Evening Extra programme, Paul Bell, from Botanic Primary School, said he has "no idea who has done the mathematics" on the arrangements.

    While he welcomes a return to school, Mr Bell said that half of his school do not speak English as a first language and many others have additional needs, making the guidelines even more difficult to implement.


    Education Minister Peter Weir said he does not think this is "a mathematical impossibility".

    "I think a reduction from 2 to 1m is a massive game changer in terms of education," he said.

    "This is a very positive step forward. It has not gone to the ultimate step of saying every pupil across Northern Ireland will be in, I hope to see that as soon as possible, and I think that's the best route forward."

  4. Catholic Primate looks forward to return of public Mass

    The head of the Catholic Church in Ireland, Archbishop Eamon Martin, has welcomed Stormont's annoucement of an "indicative date" of 29 June for churches to reopen for public worship.

    It is the same date on which places of worship in the Republic of Ireland are expected to reopen for public services.

    Archbishop Martin said it was "particularly helpful that parishes in cross-border communities will be able to plan together for a safe return to Mass around the same time".

    He added work was ongoing to "ensure that our sacred spaces will be as safe as possible when we begin to gather again together in prayer".

    Archbishop Eamon Martin
    Image caption: Archbishop Eamon Martin said church services will return in a "cautious way"

    Places of worship were closed by law in Northern Ireland in March, but in May they were allowed to reopen for private prayer only.

    Under a further easing of lockdown measures on Wednesday, Stormont ministers agreed places of worship can reopen on a wider basis from 29 June, but are seeking guidance on capacity issues.

    Archbishop Martin said: "I expect that we will be beginning in a cautious way at first, and there will be a need for ongoing patience and careful monitoring of the situation."

  5. Four further deaths in Republic of Ireland

    There have been four further deaths of people with Covid-19 in the Republic of Ireland.

    There have also been an additional 16 confirmed cases of the virus.

    The latest figures bring to 249 the total number of patients in hospital in the Republic of Ireland with confirmed or suspected Covid-19, down from 276 in the previous 24 hours.

  6. A change of look for hairdressing salon

    The announcement that hair salons can reopen on 6 July couldn't come soon enough, judging by the reaction of some customers in Newry.

    Salon owner Claire Blackadder says her phone started "hopping" with calls and texts as soon as the likely date was reported last night.

    "My phone actually started to get hot," she told BBC News NI. "I had 56 messages within an hour."

    Although clients are keen to get their lockdown locks tamed, Claire is "apprehensive" about the challenges ahead and is taking no chances.

    She has spent more than £1,000 on new measures to keep customers safe, including new perspex screens and sanitation equipment.

    Screens have been fitted around the chairs in the Newry salon
    Image caption: Screens have been fitted around the chairs in the Newry salon

    But social distancing mean the number of chairs in her salon has been cut from five to just three.

    Claire has asked all her regular clients to wear a face covering and bring their own towels to the salon.

    She has introduced a new sanitation regime, but cleaning down surfaces after every client will take an extra 15 minutes between each appointment.

    On her own initiative, Claire will ask each customer to sign a declaration when they enter the salon, confirming that they do not have Covid-19 symptoms.

  7. Optometrists prepare to clear eye appointment backlog

    Lesley-Anne McKeown

    BBC News NI

    Optometrists are preparing to clear a backlog of 12,200 routine and urgent eye care appointments from next month.

    It comes as part of phased return of primary care ophthalmic services across Northern Ireland.

    Patients with the most urgent eye care conditions such as loss of vision, educational and occupational visual needs, and post-operative care will be prioritised, the Health and Social Care Board has said.

    Last month, optometrists carried out 952 phone or video consultations and had 771 face to face consultations with patients.

    eye test

    Remote or virtual consultations will continue but where necessary, patients will be seen face-to-face.

    Reminders for routine eye examinations will not be part of this phase of the services offered.

    Raymond Curran, Head of Ophthalmic Services at the Health and Social Care Board said, “I know the pandemic has had a financial impact on high street optometrists and I want to thank them for their cooperation in continuing to offer a limited essential and urgent service.

    “As we plan the phased return of services, we will be listening to both the concerns of the public and optometrists, while balancing this with the scientific advice.”

  8. 'Everything we do is looking to the future' - O'Neill

    Michelle O'Neill

    The first and deputy first ministers have dismissed a suggestion that they have taken giant leaps instead of baby steps since announcing the Pathway to Recovery - the five-stage plan to ease lockdown in Northern Ireland.

    Arlene Foster and Michelle O'Neill said the "decisions continue to be guided by science".

    Speaking at a Stormont briefing, Michelle O'Neill: "We had flexibility built into that plan and we have headroom to continue to look forward.

    "We've also said that this going to be gradual, and it's not easy. It's far from from simple but we're guided by the science.

    "Everything we do is looking to the future; it's about supporting families.

    "We're very confident that this is as per the plan that we had set out."

  9. People shielding may have 'mixed emotions' on shielding changes

    The deputy first minister says she understands that some people who have been shielding will have "mixed emotions" about the changes to the guidance.

    About 80,000 people in Northern Ireland received letters at the start of the pandemic advising them to self-isolate because of a health condition.

    The executive has now agreed a temporary pause on shielding, to take effect from 31 July.

    Speaking at a Stormont press briefing, Michelle O'Neill said: "I'm quite sure there will be people who will be anxious about reintegrating into society again and how they are going to live their lives, out and about again.

    "We want to reassure all those people that you will be given advice and support to help you make that transition."

    Earlier this month, people shielding were told they could leave their homes with their household or to meet one person from another household.

    80,000 people received shielding letters in Northern Ireland
    Image caption: 80,000 people received shielding letters in Northern Ireland
  10. Key worker definition to be scrapped to ease childcare access

    Stormont press conference

    The first minister has announced that from 1 July the definition of a key worker in Northern Ireland will be scrapped.

    Arlene Foster says this "will allow all parents to avail of childcare again".

    With the exception of childminders, Mrs Foster says "there are no plans to limit the capacity of who can be cared for" from this date.

    Childminders will be able to provide care for four families from 29 June and up to five in August.

  11. 'Business case made' for free school meals over summer

    school dinner

    A business case has been made by the Northern Ireland Executive for the free school meals scheme to continue over the summer, the first minister has said.

    Direct payments for free school meals are scheduled to end on 30 June.

    It was revealed earlier that Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK that has not extended the free school meals scheme over July and August.

    Speaking at a Stormont briefing, Arlene Foster also said that summer schemes could go ahead on a limited basis for children aged nine to 13.

    Keyworkers' children will get priority for places.

  12. Update on R-number


    Speaking at Thursday's Stormont briefing, Arlene Foster said that the executive has been able to further ease some lockdown restrictions as the R-number - which measures the rate of infection - is currently between 0.6 and 0.9.

  13. Hair and beauty salons to reopen as the virus remains 'contained'

    Arlene Fostrt

    Coronavirus in Northern Ireland "continues to be contained and the number of new cases remains small”, the first minister has said.

    Speaking at Thursday's Stormont briefing, Arlene Foster confirmed that hairdressers, barbers and beauty salons will be able reopen in Northern Ireland on 6 July.

    Next Thursday the executive will confirm whether or not places of worship can open from 29 June and "guidance will be produced around capacity, singing and services such as weddings, christenings and funerals”.

  14. BreakingNI schoolchildren to follow 1m social distancing

    Robbie Meredith

    BBC News NI Arts and Education Correspondent

    Social distancing of 1m as opposed to the usual 2m is "safe and appropriate" for children and young people at school, the Northern Ireland Executive has agreed.

    The measure will allow "full classes to attend" school.

    That is according to guidance sent by the Department of Education to school principals on Thursday.

    The guidance outlines how schools may operate when they fully reopen.

  15. School days could have 'staggered' start times

    Robbie Meredith

    BBC News NI Arts and Education Correspondent

    The beginning and end of school days could be "staggered" to avoid all children arriving at school at once.

    That is one of the measures under consideration by the executive as part of a plan to re-open schools to all pupils after the summer.

    The Department of Education's (DE) plan is aimed at ensuring the maximum number of pupils can attend safely.

    However, a change in social distancing guidance could alter some of the proposals to enable more pupils to be taught in school.


    For instance, a draft document previously seen by BBC News NI stated that post-primary pupils would attend school every other week.

    In primary schools children are likely to be in school for at least 40% of the week but there will be some flexibility for schools on how they timetable that.

    That could mean primary pupils attending school two days a week or on mornings or afternoons only for four days a week.

  16. Temporary 'pause' on shielding expected

    Jayne McCormack

    BBC News NI political reporter

    BBC News NI understands that the executive will also announce a temporary ‘pause’ on shielding.

    About 80,000 people in NI received letters at the start of the pandemic advising them to self-isolate because of a health condition.

    Earlier this month, people shielding were told they could leave their homes with their household or to meet one person from another household.

    It is understood the executive has now agreed a temporary pause on shielding, to take effect from 31 July.

  17. BreakingHairdressers and barbers to reopen on July 6 in NI

    Stephen Walker

    BBC News NI Political Correspondent


    Hairdressers and barbers will be able reopen in Northern Ireland on 6 July, Stormont sources have confirmed.

    The executive has been meeting to provide indicative dates for further lockdown easing in Northern Ireland.

    Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill had said Thursday would be a "significant day" for more decisions.

    It is understood the executive will also make a further announcement for vulnerable people who have been shielding.

    Read more here

  18. Non-urgent dental care to resume by end of June, says BDA

    Marie-Louise Connolly

    BBC News NI Health Correspondent

    Dentists in Northern Ireland will be able to provide non-urgent care to the public from 29 June, according to the British Dental Association (BDA).

    Phase three, which will permit dentists to carry out aerosol-generating procedures (AGPs) including fillings, is scheduled to start from 20 July.

    The BDA says the timetable has been confirmed by the Department of Health.

    The association warned that a shortage of personal protective equipment "could easily jeopardise any progress".

    AGPs, involving the use of high-speed instruments, represent the majority of dental treatments.

    Read more here.

  19. Good news for beauty salons

    Jayne McCormack

    BBC News NI political reporter

    beauty salon

    It’s understood nail and beauty salons in Northern Ireland will also get an indicative date for reopening from the executive later.

    They are likely to get the same date to reopen as hairdressers and barbers, which has been suggested for 6 July – although it needs approval from the whole executive.

    Ministers have been meeting since noon to discuss the further easing of lockdown restrictions – that meeting’s still under way.

  20. New case in Causeway Coast and Glens

    The one new case recorded by the department since yesterday was in Causeway Coast and Glens council area.

    The highest number of cases to date are in the Belfast area.


    There were no Covid-19 admissions on Sunday or Monday of this week into any NI hospital.