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Live Reporting

All times stated are UK

  1. That's all for today

    Principal Deputy Speaker Christopher Stalford adjourns the assembly for today.

    If you saw the indicative timings that we published earlier you'll know that today's business changed out of all recognition as the day progressed.

    We aim to be back here at 10:30 tomorrow for another meeting of the assembly.

    The main business of the day is the debate on the Coronavirus Bill.

    In the meantime, have a safe night in and do join us tomorrow if you can.

  2. Amend Standing Orders

    The deputy speaker draws the ministerial statement to a close, before taking the members to a motion to Amend Standing Orders.

    It's by Thomas Buchanan of the DUP.

    He says he and his party back the motion and believes the assembly "will be best served by committees with a reduced number from 11 to nine" and "allow business to be brought to house in more efficient manner".

    He commends the motion to house.

    Thomas Buchanan

    Rosemary Barton of the UUP and Andrew Muir of Alliance also add their support to the motion.

    Gary Middleton then wraps on the motion.

    The motion is passed on oral vote.

  3. Executive campaign

    The Green Party MLA, Claire Bailey, asks the deputy first minister if the executive plans to have a public announcement campaign.

    Mrs O'Neill says that will be in place "in the next couple of days".

    Claire Bailey

    She adds that it will outline the "factual position on all of these things".

  4. 'Shameful to see crowds out in country parks'

    Andrew Muir of Alliance expresses his anger at the disrespect shown to health service workers by people who treated the weekend "like a bank holiday".

    He makes reference to the car park at Crawfordsburn Country Park in his constituency overflowing.

    Andrew Muir

    "To see people taking elderly relatives out for a walk in the country park - it's shameful!"

    The minister agrees.

    "This is not a holiday, This is not a school holiday, she says.

  5. 'Activity talking to a range of businesses'

    The SDLP's Matthew O'Toole asks the deputy first minister about any conversations the executive is having with manufactures around making scrubs and ventilators.

    She says they have been "activity talking to a range of businesses".

    Matthew O'Toole

    "We’re looking at everything as we’re going to need to be prepared," adds Mrs O'Neill.

  6. Sign-language updates

    Paula Bradshaw of Alliance asks the deputy first minister whether the executive office would consider having sign language included in their press conferences about COVID-19.

    Ms O'Neill says it is something they can look at, adding there is a "need to ensure we get message out to everybody".

    Paula Bradshaw
  7. The minister becomes upset

    TUV leader Jim Allister asks what he can say to the family of a 32 year-old mother who have contacted his office.

    She has very serious cancer and a two-year-old child.

    The woman has just been told her chemotherapy is going to end "because choices have to be made as to who will be treated".

    Jim Allister

    The minster becomes visibly upset:

    "What do you say? What can you say? What can you say to that person?"

    Her voice breaking, she says: "These are the choices we're going to have to deal with".

  8. 'Test, test, test'

    Sinn Féin's Martina Anderson says there have been huge calls to "test, test, test".

    She says people want to see "test, trace and isolate to in order to stop transmission".

    Martina Anderson

    Michelle O'Neill replies that she understands that and work is being done in this area.

    "This is not planning for something that may or could happen, this is here and now," she says.

    Ms O'Neill adds that this is the week where people are "spreading without people even noticing".

    "We need to take every opportunity to drive home the message."

  9. Contract signed for more safety equipment

    The SDLP's Colin McGrath says he's concerned about the health of medical and care employees who do not have the necessary safety equipment.

    He also asks about testing for health workers.

    Colin McGrath

    Michelle O'Neill says a contract has been made to supply additional personal protection equipment.

    "It's crucially important that we have enough," she says.

    "On the question of testing we have do more," the minister adds.

  10. 'Tougher times are coming'

    The justice minister then makes way for the first and deputy first ministers to address the assembly.

    Michelle O'Neill makes a statement on behalf of the Executive Office.

    She says "our thoughts and prayers" are with the family of the second person who has died after getting coronavirus.

    She adds that the executive is "grateful to everyone who did the right thing" on Mother's Day and kept their distance.

    Michelle O'Neill

    Mrs O'Neill says officials are working through in "days and hours what would've taken months and weeks".

    She emphasises that people need to "stay home, wash hands and stay apart".

    In relation to bulk-buying, the deputy first minister says there is no need for it.

    "Be kind, look out for families and neighbours," she adds.

    NI Assembly

    "Tougher times are coming," says Ms O'Neill.

    "We know we are only at the start of what is going to be the most difficult of times. We can't make it go away unless we do the right things now."

  11. Attempt to avoid 'overburdening of a system'

    People Before Profit MLA Gerry Carroll asks the minister to explain the rationale of having non-jury inquests around deaths suspended.

    Naomi Long responds that she wants to ensure that "people’s access to justice isn't compromised" but that "resources will have to be redirected to other parts of justice system".

    She adds that there is a desire to ensure that there is no "overburdening of a system that's already stretched".

    Naomi Long
  12. £100,000 fine for banned events

    The UUP's Mike Nesbitt asks about fines that could be imposed on the organisers of prohibited events.

    This could be up to £100,000 but the legislation specifically excludes people attending events.

    Mike Nesbitt

    The minister says that's correct, but she believes that if an event is banned and a £100,000 fine imposed it is unlikely there will be an event to attend.

    "It is not good enough for people to sit down and wait until they are forced to behave appropriately we all have it in our gift to implement social distancing now, " she adds.

  13. 'Duty to consider wishes of deceased'

    The TUV MLA Jim Allister says the Coronavirus Bill 2019-2021 which is going through Westminster has a "provision which would dis-apply current protection which means a deceased person can presently leave instructions" that they do not want to be cremated

    The minister responds that there are "huge sensitivities" around this matter.

    She adds that she, "would not expect that to be the biggest pressure in our system" as she references that there is only one crematorium in Northern Ireland.

    "It's more likely to be the reverse that would be problematic," she says.

    Jim Allister

    Ms Long adds that she has signed off on new duties this morning which require "a duty to consider the wishes of deceased when we make these decisions".

    She says it is "not a duty to comply, but a duty to consider wishes of deceased".

  14. A role for the military?

    The UUP's Doug Beattie says the minister has his support and that of his party to do whatever needs to be done to combat "this terrible virus".

    He asks the minister if there has been engagement with the National Association of Funeral Directors, who believe they have the capacity to bury up to 30,000 people a year within three to four days.

    Mr Beattie is a former Army officer and he says that the military would not only be of use to the Department of Justice, they could also provide a medical service to help the Department of Health, tented test facilities, logistics drivers and support for water supplies.

    "This may be something we may have to do in order to safeguard our society," he says.

    Doug Beattie

    The minister says the department has been contact with the undertakers.

    She says that there are cultural and religious sensitivities about how quickly people should be buried or cremated.

    There is also a cultural expectation in Northern Ireland that people should be buried within two or three days and those expectations may have to be managed.

  15. 'Significant mental health issues'

    Sinn Féin's John O'Dowd asks the minister to ensure that while visits to prisons have been curtailed, that "all services and protections are put in place".

    He adds that for those members of the public not heeding advice about social distancing, they are "quite literally killing people" and "spreading this disease".

    Mr Patsy McGlone of the SDLP asks the minister what safeguards will be implemented for prisoners who may be released but who suffer from addiction.

    John O'Dowd in chamber

    Ms Long says she understands Mr O'Dowd's concern around the lack of visitation in prisons, but reassures him that a number of measures are being put in place, such as additional phone credits, video conferencing, limited internet access, to reduce the mental health implications.

    In relation to Mr McGlone, the minister says there are many people in prison with "significant mental health issues and vulnerabilities".

    She adds that "rehabilitation is crucial in the prison system".

  16. 'Serious and imminent risk to the public'

    The DUP's Paul Givan chairs the Justice Committee and he thanks the minister and her officials.

    He refers to police powers that will only come into play when approved by the Department of Health when the situation presents "serious and imminent risk" to the public.

    He says there needs to be clarity as to when the department will actually trigger the police powers.

    Paul Givan

    He says there are issues around recruitment and retention of police officers and the capacity to bring back recently-retired officers.

    Mr Givan says he hopes the minister would support assistance from the Ministry of Defence if necessary.

    He also wants to see protective equipment and COVID-19 testing for officers.

    The MLA refers to "an invasion of tourist areas" at the weekend and wants to know about punitive powers that can be taken to prevent this.

    He says the committee has been told by officials that there is the capacity for the storing of 280 bodies and further capacity is being sought.

  17. All prison visits suspended

    Turning to the prisons, the minister says that all prisoners tested so far have tested negative.

    She informs the members that all prison visits are to be suspended from today.

    NI Assembly

    In conclusion, the minister says: "People need to get real and today I am echoing the call for social responsibility that began via social media over the weekend".

    "None of us have ever faced a challenge like this, what may have seemed inconceivable a few short weeks ago is increasingly becoming our present day reality," she adds.

  18. 'Respect for deceased and bereaved will be preserved'

    The speaker then invites the Minister of Justice, Naomi Long, to brief MLAs on her department's preparations for COVID-19.

    She says there is work ongoing "across the justice family to mitigate the impacts of this pandemic".

    She says the priority is to maintain the "safety of our staff and those in our care" as well as "access to essential justice services".

    She says the management of written questions will enable her department to focus on the "maintenance of essential services" during this period and that she will continue to provide "frequent and timely information to members" on the situation.

    Naomi Long

    In relation to staff she says, "we know it is estimated 50% of the workforce will take time off as result of COVID-19" and that is estimated to last for a three to four week period with around "20% of staff absent at any one time".

    Ms Long adds, "that's before we account absence for other routine reasons" and says measures have been taken to ensure people who can work from home do so, and that those needed in the office are physically distanced.

    Naomi Long

    Ms Long goes out to outline some of the measures contained with the Cornavirus Bill 2019-2021 will impact her department.

    She says, "I don't want to create unnecessary anxiety, but what my officials and I do want to do is ensure we are as prepared as we can be for worst case scenario".

    She adds that in terms of funerals, "my depart will be working to ensure respect for deceased and bereaved will be preserved".

    She adds that the department is working hard to ensure the deceased will be buried or cremated "in the usual way" but says there may be instances where "some families may need to wait longer for burial or cremation of their loved ones".

  19. Pneumoconiosis regulations pass

    The DUP's Paula Bradley speaks on behalf of the Committee for Commuities.

    She notes that the regulations would simply increase the amounts payable under the relevant order and make payment available to dependents where the sufferer did not receive a payment before their death.

    Paula Bradley

    She says she thinks everyone can see the justice and fairness in making such revisions for dependants.

    The regulations pass on an oral vote.

  20. 'No amount of money can compensate'

    The assembly then turns to debate on the Pneumoconiosis Regulations 2020 motion which is moved by the Minister for Communities, Deirdre Hargey.

    Pneumoconiosis is a long-term and irreversible disease characterised by scarring and inflammation of the lung tissue

    Ms Hargey outlines that the "regulations will increase the value of lump sum awards" to those affected by Pneumoconiosis.

    Deirdre Hargey

    She adds that the increase has been made in line with inflation but says she is aware that "no amount of money can compensate a person affected by these diseases".