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Live Reporting

All times stated are UK

  1. Have a good evening

    Ballycastle

    It's fair to say that today has been one of the most significant in terms of the roadmap for easing lockdown restrictions, with news on social distancing and a range of reopening dates.

    We'll be back early in the morning to keep you up to date with Friday's developments and we'll leave you with this beautiful image captured at Ballycastle by reader Joe Brogan.

    Have a good evening.

  2. Today's key developments

    It's been another eventful day as huge, if not totally unexpected, news broke about social distancing policy.

    Here are today's key developments:

    • The executive agrees to reduce social distancing in Northern Ireland from 2m (6ft) to 1m with restrictions
    • It has also agreed indicative dates for the further easing of coronavirus lockdown measures, including the reopening of betting shops on 3 July, gyms from 10 July and libraries from 16 July
    • Competitive sport can resume from 17 July, with leisure centres and soft play areas allow to reopen from 7 August
    • There were no further Covid-19 related deaths in Northern Ireland recorded by the Department of Health in the last 24 hours
    • The UK announced 149 more deaths linked to the coronavirus, bringing the total to 43,230
    • The UK also recorded recorded 1,118 more cases of the disease
  3. Church services back on 29 June

    Michelle O'Neill says the executive has spoken to church leaders, sporting organisations and business leaders.

    She confirms that places of worship can open for services from 29 June.

    "We will say more about weddings and funerals from Monday," she adds.

    She says that to consider reducing the two-metre distance rule would depend on "whether it is indoors or outdoors, ventilation and if there are face coverings".

    She's also reminding people they still must be cautious.

    Michelle and Arlene

    As regards face coverings she tells the briefing that "we strongly recommend using them where you can".

    However, as to whether they will be compulsory or not the executive will come back to that on Monday.

  4. EasyJet to resume holiday flights from Belfast

    John Campbell

    BBC News NI Economics and Business Editor

    EasyJet is to restart flights to Spain, France, Turkey, and Poland from Belfast International airport in the middle of July.

    The airline will add routes to Jersey and Croatia in August.

    It resumed some domestic flights earlier this month.

    EasyJet said it will resume flying to almost three quarters of its route network by August.

    EasyJet plane

    Graham Keddie, managing irdector of Belfast International said it was a welcome boost for the aviation industry and would help the local economy.

    He added: "We have been working closely with easyJet and other airlines along with the Public Health Agency to ensure the safety and well-being of all who travel through the airport and have all necessary measures in place.

    "We ask that everyone travelling via Belfast International adheres to the safety policies in place, including wearing face coverings and observing social distancing.”

  5. 'Science hasn't changed on social distancing'

    First Minister Arlene Foster says the change in the executive's guidance on social distancing is a "policy decision" and "the science hasn't changed".

    She says reducing the distance from 2m to 1m was a move that ministers have "ruminated about for quite some time" and is about the "management of risk" with low transmission rates of the virus in Northern Ireland.

    "The reason why we believe we can move to the 1m is in relation to having other mitigations in place to manage that risk," she says.

    2m

    "Nothing is risk free in this scenario and therefore it is important that the hospitality and tourism sector continues to work with the executive to find the appropriate mitigations for their particular areas," Mrs Foster continued.

    "Obviously hand hygiene remains a key part of that, having sanitisers.

    "How the different hospitality venues are actually repurposed, how people are sitting at tables, whether there's a need for having perspex in certain areas, all of these things will be looked at with the hospitality industry."

  6. BreakingIndoor gyms and outdoor playgrounds can open from 10 July

    Ther Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill says the level of community transmission, the R rate, is between 0.06 and 0.09, which she says is "as low as it will reach in the absence of a vaccine".

    "We promised we wouldn’t keep things in place for any longer than necessary," she says.

    MIchelle Oneill

    She goes on to say that the executive believes that within this new context "we can publish a roadmap of relaxations matched to indicative dates".

    Here are some of the dates laid out:

    • Betting shops - 3 July
    • Tattoo parlours, holistic therapies and reflexology - 6 July
    • Indoor gyms and outdoor playgrounds - 10 July
    • Libraries - 16 July
    • Competitive sport resumption - 17 July
    • Seated venues like Bingo halls/Arcades - 29 July
    • Indoor sports courts and skating rinks from 7 August
    • ·Socially-distanced indoor spectators can return to sporting events from 28 August;
    • Leisure centres and soft play areas - 7 August
    • ·Open air museums from late-August
  7. BreakingSocial distancing measure reduced and other reopening dates announced

    First Minister Arlene Foster has confirmed that social distancing guidelines in Northern Ireland will be reduced from 2m to 1m, subject to mitigations.

    She told a briefing at Stormont that while "everybody's objective should be to stay 2m apart from those from other households wherever possible", it would be an important move particularly to support the hospitality sector.

    "A minimum 1m distance between individuals can be considered acceptable in circumstances where appropriate mitigations are made," she explained.

    Arlene Foster

    The first minister also announced the NI Executive has agreed indicative dates for the further easing of coronavirus lockdown measures, including the reopening of gyms, leisure centres, libraries and the resumption of competitive sport.

    She said: "Some of the proposed areas incorporated in the timetable include betting shops from the 3 of July, additional close contact services, such as tattoo parlours, reflexology and complementary therapies from the 6 of July, indoor gyms and outdoor playgrounds from the 10 of July, libraries from the 16 of July."

    Competitive sport, she added, can resume from 17 July, with leisure centres and soft play areas allow to reopen from 7 August.

  8. Tales from the key workers at the sharp end during the pandemic

    Throughout the pandemic, the UK has depended on its key workers - who are often on low wages and facing difficult personal circumstances.

    The BBC has been in contact with some of these workers during the period, and here publishes some of their diaries.

    They catalogue some of the countless sacrifices they have made in their work.

    Kayleigh Winters and her family
    Image caption: Kayleigh Winters and her family

    Kayleigh Winters returned to her job caring for elderly people in their homes, after 10 months' maternity leave.

    "I do feel anxious," she said.

    "When I left last year everything was normal. Now, I'm going to have to return to my kids each night worrying about whether I'm bringing home the virus."

    Read more here.

  9. Push for masks to increase passenger numbers in the Republic

    We reported earlier that Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon would ask the NI Executive today to make face masks compulsory on public transport.

    There is similar thinking in the Republic of Ireland.

    Irish state broadcaster RTÉ reports Transport Minister Shane Ross is set to ask his colleagues to support a plan aimed at increasing the number of people who can use public transport.

    Someone wearing a face mask staring out of a foggy window on a bus

    It would involve the wearing of face coverings, and reducing the social distancing required from 2m (6ft) to 1m (3ft).

    If agreed, the move could see capacity increased by 50% on buses, trains, and trams.

  10. Swimmer looks forward to getting back in the pool

    Ali Gordon

    BBC News NI

    The decision to allow some elite athletes to resume indoor training will make a big difference to Olympic hopeful Jack McMillan who says training in the midst of lockdown has been very difficult.

    His parents have been driving him from Belfast to the Sport Ireland National Aquatic Centre in Dublin twice a week since pools opened for athletes in the Republic of Ireland on 8 June.

    Before lockdown, he was training eight times a week at Bangor Aurora.

    “For weeks I was nowhere near a pool and even now it’s only twice a week which isn’t enough,” the 20-year-old told BBC News NI.

    “Getting that extra time in the pool is so important for fitness.”

    Jack McMillan

    The Irish record-holding swimmer says a number of athletes will hugely benefit from the decision.

    He said: “It will mean that we can all get more sessions in each week and we wouldn’t have to spend as much money on petrol.

    "Even just going to Dublin twice a week is a lot of money.

    “In Dublin, they’ve got a really good set up and Bangor Aurora could operate the same way.

    "They’ve got temperature monitors at the front doors and we don’t use the changing rooms at all.

    "Everything is taped off so we know where to go when we get to the pool and everyone maintains social distancing.”

  11. Executive briefing starts shortly

    You'll hear more about the relaxation of coronavirus restrictions shortly.

    You can watch the briefing from the first and deputy first ministers at the top of this page when it begins.

    Graphic
  12. Elite athletes allowed to train indoors from Monday

    Jayne McCormack

    BBC News NI political reporter

    It is understood the Northern Ireland Executive has agreed to allow elite athletes to resume training indoors from Monday 29 June.

    This includes having access to high-performance gyms, indoor sports courts and swimming pools.

    Athletes classed as elite include Olympians, Paralympians, professional rugby and football players and cricketers.

    Until now, they have only been allowed to train outdoors, with some swimmers travelling to Dublin for indoor pool use.

    It is thought that the executive may also provide an indicative date for the resumption of contact sports and the return to competitive sport at the press conference later

  13. R number holds steady between 0.6 – 0.9

    R number graphic

    The current Covid-19 reproduction number (R) in Northern Ireland stands between 0.6 – 0.9 and has held steady since last week, according to the latest update from the Department of Health.

    The R number refers to the number of people person with Covid-19 is likely to infect after contracting the disease.

    The Northern Ireland Executive's target is to keep the R number below 1.

  14. 'Very significant' resurgences in Europe alarm WHO

    Europe has seen an increase in weekly cases of Covid-19 for the first time in months as restrictions imposed to curb the spread of the virus are eased, the World Health Organization (WHO) says.

    In 11 countries, which have not been named, accelerated transmission has led to "very significant" resurgences, said regional director Dr Hans Henri Kluge.

    A woman wearing personal protective equipment working in a lab setting

    His warnings about the risk of resurgence had become reality, he said.

    If left unchecked, he warned health systems would be "pushed to the brink".

    "For weeks, I have spoken about the risk of resurgence as countries adjust measures," Dr Kluge told a virtual news conference on Thursday.

    "In several countries across Europe, this risk has now become a reality - 30 countries have seen increases in new cumulative cases over the past two weeks."

    Read more here.

  15. BreakingNI Executive agrees to reduce social distancing to 1m

    The BBC understands that the executive has agreed to reduce social distancing from two metres to one metre, with restrictions.

    The proposal was brought to the executive by Economy Minister Diane Dodds and was supported by members of the hospitality industry who argued that the move was necessary to help them restart their businesses.

    The move follows a decision from the prime minister to reduce social distancing in England from two metres to one metre.

  16. Spa spends 'absolute fortune' on safety measures

    An east Belfast salon owner says she has spent an "absolute fortune" making her business safe for clients.

    "We have an old building, a three-storey building and we’ve had to completely change it, put up the perspex screens, the manicure stations and pedicure stations,” says Leah White.

    She says prices have to "go up slightly to cover costs” associated with the purchase of PPE and transforming the physical layout of the spa.

    spa treatment

    “It is just costing us a lot of money while we were closed,” she says.

    She has notified clients online that costs have risen.

    “Everyone seems to accept that,” she adds.

  17. The latest coronavirus stats by council area

    The daily statistics released by Stormont's Department of Health show no further Covid-19 related deaths have been confirmed here in the last 24 hours.

    There has been a significant increase in the number of new cases, with 850 new positive tests.

    This is due to the inclusion of tests carried out through the regional test centres, mobile test units and home testing kits from 29 April.

    Daily council testing figures
  18. BreakingRise of 850 in positive Covid-19 cases is due to data changes

    There has been a significant jump in the number of positive Covid-19 tests in Northern Ireland on Thursday, but the increase is due to a change in how figures are reported.

    On Wednesday, the total number of positive tests was 4,873, but from Thursday onwards the Department of Health's daily dashboard also includes tests carried out through the regional test centres, mobile test units and home testing kits from 29 April.

    That has taken the total of positive tests to 5,724 - an increase of 850 cases - but it should be stressed that most of those tests were carried out over the past few weeks and are only now appearing in the figures.

    The dashboard says there have been 21 positive tests recorded in Northern Ireland in the last seven days using both health and social care labs and the national testing initiative.

  19. UK 'travel corridors' due to be finalised

    A beach scene

    Ministers are due to finalise details of a series of "travel corridors" so people arriving into the UK on certain routes will not need to quarantine.

    Most of Western Europe is due to be on an initial list of exempt countries.

    The countries expected to be exempt include France, Italy, Spain, Greece, Belgium, Germany, Norway, the Netherlands, Turkey and Finland.

    Portugal will probably not be included after a rise in the number of new cases in and around Lisbon.

    Sweden is also unlikely to be on the list because the infection rate there is higher than in the UK.

    Read more about travel corridors here.

  20. BreakingNo Covid-19 deaths reported in NI

    No coronavirus-related deaths have been recorded by Northern Ireland’s Department of Health in the last 24 hours. meaning its death toll remains static at 547.

    The department’s daily figures are mostly comprised of hospital deaths and where a patient had previously tested positive for the virus.