A PHASED five-stage plan for slowly moving out of lockdown has been published by the Executive today.
The document sets out the approach the Executive will take when deciding how to ease restrictions in the future.
In making decisions, the Executive will consider three key criteria: The most up-to-date scientific evidence; the ability of the health service to cope; and the wider impacts on our health, society and the economy.
There is no indication as yet of when the restrictions could be eased, however within phase one of the plan groups of 4–6 people who do not share a household could meet outdoors maintaining social distancing. It adds, "With the exception of people who are shielding, visits to immediate family allowed indoors where social distancing is possible.
"Drive through church services and churches open for private prayer with appropriate social distancing and cleaning of shared contact hard surfaces."
Also within phase one those who are unable to work from home will be encouraged "to return to workplace on phased basis subject to legal requirements and best practice arrangements
being in place".
Large outdoor based retail would also be able to open such as garden centres - though associated cafes and restaurants would only able to offer takeaway/collection.
First Minister Arlene Foster said: “We recognise how difficult the current restrictions are. But those restrictions, and the determined people of Northern Ireland who have adhered to them, have saved lives and continue to do so.
“We don’t want to keep any restriction in place any longer than we have to, but in relaxing any measure we must be cognisant of the potential effects in the transmission of the virus and our ability to save lives.
“The Executive’s recovery strategy sets out a pathway for us to emerge from lockdown in the safest way possible. This will require a series of judgements and decisions as we move forward. These decisions will be evidence based, taking account of our unique circumstances here in Northern Ireland.
“As we embark on our phased recovery, we will remain focused on the health and wellbeing of our population; the impacts on our society; and our economy as a whole. Above all else, our priority will be saving lives.”
Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said: “We don’t underestimate the impact that the severe restrictions have had on everyone across our society. While they are still absolutely necessary, it is important that we give people hope for the future.
“Today we have set out our pathway for future recovery which gives an indication of how the restrictions on different aspects of life may be eased at various stages.
“The incremental five-step approach reflects the risk-based judgements we will make at each stage. These decisions will be evidenced by medical and scientific advice and benchmarked against our guiding principles and international best practice.
“The Executive’s strategy is not time bound because it’s vital that we retain the flexibility needed to respond to the complex emerging situation based on all relevant evidence.
“Our recovery from Coronavirus will require a real partnership effort with the community. We are appealing to the public to please be patient. Keep adhering to the restrictions, follow the public health advice and stay at home. We will keep you updated every step of the way when we are in a position to slowly and carefully move out of lockdown.”