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Coronavirus: Plan to ease lockdown to be published next week

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Arlene Foster has said that the NI Executive will publish its roadmap for easing lockdown restrictions in Northern Ireland early next week.

The First Minister told BBC Breakfast that "everything will stay as it is" for the next three weeks.

She added that there could be "nuanced changes," within the three weeks such as outdoor exercise.

It had been hoped the executive would publish a recovery plan on Thursday.

Mrs Foster said the extension was "all to do with the famous R number".

'Minor adjustments'

"Ours is about 0.8, 0.9 and we do not want to go above the number one again," she said.

But she added that "we will look and see if we can make minor adjustments within the three weeks".

"We do of course recognise that we must give hope and early next week will be publishing our roadmap for the next few months," she added.

media captionWhat is the R number and what does it mean?

Speaking on Good Morning Ulster Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey echoed the first minister's comments.

"The executive has looked at the R number within the community and there was consensus across the board that the restrictions should be in place for the next three weeks," she said.

"We know there's been messages put out that add to confusion," she said.

"We are hopeful that we will have something published next week but it's important that we get that plan right because we know that with each change that's made, it takes about three weeks for it to show the R impact," she added.

'Precarious situation'

She said that up until now the health service has been able to cope because the public has been adhering to the social distancing and lockdown messaging.

"We want to make sure there's a full test, trace and isolate policy up and running," she said.

She said it is better that any easing of lockdown is coordinated throughout the island of Ireland.

On Thursday Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill said she recognised "many people will be disappointed".

"Every decision we will make will have an impact. We're in a precarious situation and we're not in a position today where we're able to relax anything at this time," she said.

In other developments on Friday:

Executive ministers met for more than three hours on Thursday, ahead of a call between the PM and leaders of the devolved institutions.

They agreed to recommend that people in Northern Ireland should now wear face coverings when they were in enclosed spaces for short periods of time, where social distancing is not possible.

On Sunday night, Boris Johnson will set out his own plan aimed at beginning to ease the UK lockdown.

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image captionHealth care workers and Unison members working at the Mater Hospital Belfast

The Executive had to review its coronavirus legislation by Saturday, and will not make any changes to it at this stage.

Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales have the power to diverge from what the government at Westminster decides on the lockdown - and could lift restrictions at a different rate.

Mrs Foster said she had spoken to Boris Johnson who said he was "moving forward with maximum caution" and that he recognised that the nations must move forward at different paces.

"He and I want us to move forward in a four nations way as we have simplicity and clarity of message," she said.

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