Newspaper headlines: Shutdown of schools and peace campaigner tributes

image source, Getty Images
image captionSchools will shut to pupils in Northern Ireland from Monday

There is one story dominating the front pages on Thursday - the decision that schools across Northern Ireland are to close from Monday due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"Schools out... and it could be for months" is the headline on the front page of the Belfast Telegraph, as it highlights the message from NI First Minister Arlene Foster that the closure could last into the summer.

She said "the societal and enormous impact" of the measure would be "enormous as parents have to adjust their routine to deal with this unplanned long-term closure".

The story is also reflected on the front pages of the Irish News, News Letter and Daily Mirror.

The Irish News reports final-year nursing students are to be drafted in to work in the health service as part of "emergency plans" to tackle the virus.

It says it has learned the move has been signed off by Health Minister Robin Swann and is expected to be formally announced on Thursday.

NI Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill's announcement of a £370m package of measures to help "vulnerable businesses" also makes many of the papers.

The News Letter reports an "immediate grant of £10,000 will be provided to all small businesses who are eligible for the small business rate relief scheme".

Ms O'Neill also said the community needed to "come together as never before".

image source, News Letter

The Daily Mirror says Mrs Foster and Ms O'Neill offered a united front as they spoke of the "unprecedented" challenge facing Northern Ireland.

However the paper claims "confusion still reigns for families and teachers" after UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said this academic year's exams will not go ahead in England and Wales, but decisions are still to be made in Northern Ireland.

The Mirror also highlights the death of Nobel laureate and peace activist Betty Williams on its front page.

Ms Williams, who formed the Peace People movement in 1976 along with Mairead Corrigan Maguire and Ciaran McKeown, died on Tuesday, aged 76.

There are various tributes to Ms Williams, including one from filmmaker Abigail Disney, who described her as "a beacon of moral courage and an indefatigable voice for peace and human rights".

image source, Daily Mirror

Elsewhere, the Irish News reports the Northern Ireland Hospice has welcomed the "amazing response" to a public appeal for the donation of protective face masks for staff.

Separately, NI Hospice chief executive Heather Weir has urged the NI Executive to help provide "urgent supplies of necessary equipment", funding access including a loan of up to £10m to cover the fall in charitable support, and the suspension of payments on all taxes and pensions to support cash flow.

image captionGary Lightbody is asking for requests for his Instagram concert

On a lighter note, the Belfast Telegraph reports two renowned musicians have been doing their best to raise spirits in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.

U2 frontman Bono has written a new ballad entitled Let Your Love Be Known posting it on Instagram with the caption:"For the Italians who inspired it...".

It says the video shows Bono singing the ballad beside a piano at his home on St Patrick's Day.

Snow Patrol singer Gary Lightbody has announced he will be doing an acoustic concert on Instagram on Thursday at 19:00 GMT and asked fans to post requests.