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Live Reporting

Amy Stewart, Michael Shiels McNamee and Ali Gordon

All times stated are UK

  1. Goodbye

    That's it from us on the BBC News NI live page for the coronavirus briefing with First Minister Arlene Foster, Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill and Health Minister Robin Swann.

    Thank you for your company.

    Have a lovely evening.

  2. 'This is our pathway back to normality'

    Video content

    Video caption: Stormont ministers on vaccine rollout
  3. Executive to meet on Thursday about easing current restrictions

    Arlene Foster has the last word at the press conference.

    Asked about the lifting of current restrictions, due to happen next Friday, she says that a full discussion will take place at a NI Executive meeting tomorrow.

    "Our hope and our desire is that we'll be able to say more about that tomorrow," she says.

  4. Cross-border healthcare workers eligible for vaccine

    The health minister confirms that healthcare workers in NI, who are resident in the Republic of Ireland, will be eligible for the vaccine.

    "We will support our healthcare workers as they come forward," says Mr Swann.

    "If they meet the priority groups, they will be eligible for that vaccine."

  5. Vaccines to care homes 'as soon as we feasibly can'

    Responding to a question on vaccines for care homes, Mr Swann says "forthcoming vaccines rather than the Pfizer one" could be better suited.

    This is due to how the vaccine is brought out to the care homes in mobile units.

    "We want to give vaccines to care homes as quickly as possible," says the health minister.

    "We will get vaccines out to care homes as soon as we feasibly can."

    Robin Swann

    Later in the press conference he expands on the practicalities of giving out the vaccine to priority groups.

    "When you look at what the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) have said, although they say the care homes area should be a priority, they have acknowledged that there will have to be some flexibility in deployment," he says.

    "We do know that this vaccine comes in batches of just under 1,000 and it must be distilled in aseptic conditions, under the supervision of a pharmacist, so it does not lend itself easily for utilisation in care homes.

    "While the criteria has been set, we need to make sure the characteristics of the vaccines meet the need and the ability to deploy it in certain settings."

    Mrs Foster says she hopes the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid vaccine will be given validation "soon, so hopefully there will not be a gap between residents and staff".

  6. Pregnant women advised not to take vaccine

    Mr Swann answers a question about what advice will be given to pregnant women who are working in the health service.

    "Women who are currently pregnant or who become pregnant during the cycle of the vaccine are advised not to take it as we do not have the scientific evidence for that specific group," he says.

  7. 'No certainty in a pandemic'

    Now answering questions from journalists, the ministers are asked about a possible lockdown during a third wave next year.

    Mr Swann responds that nothing is certain and says that previously he has "not hesitated to bring measures forward" to the NI Executive.

    Ms O'Neill follows by saying that "unfortunately there hasn't been that certainty that people crave", but that there would be certainty with a vaccine.

  8. £10m for newly self employed - Foster

    First Minister Arlene Foster announces a new £10m scheme for newly self-employed people who have been adversely affected by the pandemic.

    Those eligible will be entitled to an initial grant of £3,500, topped up as appropriate.

    “It is important we do all we can to help those who have borne the brunt of Covid in so many different ways," she says.

    She also says there will be new targeted rapid testing which will give students and their families assurance of a safe return home for Christmas.

    Arlene Foster

    There is "hard and difficult work" still to do, she says, but the new Covid taskforce will help to bring together all the different elements together to get life “back to normal”.

    She also adds that the executive will discuss tomorrow about how to move out of current lockdown restrictions due to end on 11 December.

    She says there remains much to do but urges people to stick together and look ahead to returning to our pre-Covid way of life.

  9. 'Particular logistical difficulties' with vaccine

    Mr Swann has issued a note of caution and states there are "particular logistical difficulties" in relation to the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine - relating to how it is stored and transported.

    He says the other vaccines could be more easily distributed, and could be "better for care homes".

    Mr Swann also notes that administering the vaccine is "heavily dependent on available supplies".

  10. 'A momentous day' - Swann

    Robin Swann starts his address with his sympathies for the four people who have died with coronavirus in NI in the past 24 hours, before noting today's breakthrough.

    The health minister calls it "a momentous day", but says there are still "many more steps along this long and difficult path to go".

    Robin Swann

    He encourages people to follow health guidance in the run up to Christmas, and encourages the public to "stick with us".

  11. 'We must build a more compassionate society'

    Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill turns her focus to the "post-pandemic world" and what the focus should be on.

    She says there is a need for "a fair and more compassionate society for everyone".

    Michelle O'Neill

    Ms O'Neill says there is "an opportunity for an inclusive recovery" and "our future focus must be to build on the work which has been done" during the pandemic.

  12. 'Thank you so much' - O'Neill

    Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill follows up now by reemphasising the need to stick to the health measures.

    "This is a good day, it certainly is a day of hope for many, many people," she says.

    Ms O'Neill says it will take "a huge effort, a coordinated effort" to roll out the vaccine, and goes on to thank healthcare workers for their efforts during the pandemic.

    "Thank you, thank you so much, and I hope you are heartened today by this news."

    Michelle O'Neill
  13. 'We must walk all of the path to the end of the virus' - Foster

    First Minister Arlene Foster is first at the podium.

    She tells the Stormont briefing that the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine is “momentous news”, that we have all “yearned for all year”.

    “Our task now is to deliver our vaccination programme as soon as possible,” she says.

    “This is our pathway back to normality – a world where can hug our wider family and friends, mark major life events and freely enjoy travel and leisure activities."

    Arlene Foster

    She pays tribute to the medical and scientific community and to those on the front line who are still “battling the deadly virus”.

    However she reiterates that this is "not the end of the fight against Covid", that “no-one is as yet protected" and the virus is "just as dangerous until you receive the vaccine”.

    "This is our path way out but we must walk all of that path and until we reach the end we must stick to the the public health advice," she adds.

  14. 'Balancing optimism with care and caution'

    Dr Michael McBride

    NI's chief medical officer says that the announcement on the vaccine makes for a "very exciting day but we need to balance optimism with care and caution over the next few months".

    Speaking on the BBC's Evening Extra programme, Dr Michael McBride said that people must continue to follow the government guidelines, in a bid to limit the spread of coronavirus.

    He also stressed that the vaccine is safe.

    The Pfizer/BioNTech jab is the fastest vaccine to go from concept to reality, taking only 10 months to follow the same steps that normally span about 10 years.

    "We would never deploy a vaccine that isn't safe - we wouldn't duck any checks," he said.

  15. First NI vaccinations 'to happen next week'

    Video content

    Video caption: 'This is not like other vaccines'

    The Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine has been approved by the regulatory body, the MRHA for widespread use.

    The UK is the first country in the world to approve the vaccine for widespread use.

    About 25,000 doses are set to arrive in NI from next week and vaccinations could begin shortly after.

    That is a few days ahead of schedule the original estimate of 14 December.

    The Ulster Hospital is designated as one of seven vaccine points.

    It will facilitate mostly South Eastern Trust staff, but people who live in the area and work for another trust can opt to receive their jab there.

    Read more here.

  16. What is the new vaccine and how effective is it?

    The vaccine trains the immune system to fight coronavirus.

    It is a new type of jab called an RNA vaccine and uses a tiny fragment of the virus's genetic code.

    This starts making part of the virus inside the body, which the immune system recognises as foreign and starts to attack.

    It is given in two doses - three weeks apart - and offers up to 95% protection against Covid-19.

    Pfizer vaccination doses guide
  17. Good afternoon

    First Minister Arlene Foster, Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill and Health Minister Robin Swann are due to give a briefing from Stormont shortly.

    They will be talking about NI's vaccination programme.

    Stay with us as we bring you all the developments as they happen.