// Northern Ireland lockdown exit plan confirmed, but without specific dates for the reopening on non-essential retail
// Ministers previously made it clear that Northern Ireland’s phased lockdown exit plan would be led by data
// The stages of the exit plan are lockdown, cautious first steps, gradual easing, further easing, and preparing for the future
Ministers in Northern Ireland’s devolved administration have agreed a phased plan for taking the country out of lockdown.
Stormont approved the final version of the much-anticipated strategy at a meeting a meeting this afternoon.
Ministers made it clear that Northern Ireland’s phased lockdown exit plan would be led by data, which is why no target dates were specified.
- Scotland to ease lockdown for non-essential retailers from April 26
- Government confirms: Non-essential retailers in England can reopen April 12
- Wales lockdown to remain for at least another 3 weeks
The plan focuses on nine key areas – retail; hospitality; education and young people; work; culture, heritage and entertainment; sports and leisure; travel and tourism; worship and ceremonies; home and community.
Each will emerge from lockdown in stages.
It is understood the stages are lockdown, cautious first steps, gradual easing, further easing, and preparing for the future.
Stormont said decisions on when to move between stages would be based on scientific and medical evidence, not the calendar.
It said keeping the reproductive rate of the virus below 1 will be a guiding principle.
The Executive would also review the progress of the pathway at set points, understood to be every four weeks.
Northern Ireland’s lockdown and accompanying stay-at-home message is currently in place until April 1.
Ministers had been due to review that policy on March 18 but that date has now been brought forward to March 16.
Outlining the Pathway to Recovery plan to the Stormont Assembly, Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said the Executive wanted to avoid a cycle of lockdowns.
“We must do everything we can to try to make this one the last lockdown, with the underpinning insurance policy that this Executive will take the steps needed to protect the health service,” she said.
“Taking all these factors together, we can take some tentative preparatory steps towards the lifting of restrictions. But great care is still needed.
“That is why the Executive has agreed today a careful, cautious and hopeful approach to existing restrictions.”
O’Neill said the plan built in time between phases of relaxations to provide space to examine evidence on the prevalence of the virus.
“That time will be used carefully to look at the results of the regular modelling and assess if it is safe to take the next step,” she said.
“Our aim is to find a safe, secure, sustainable and understandable way forward for our citizens, sectors and businesses. And we will be hopeful, optimistic and realistic in our pathway.”
The news means Wales is the last of the four nations to not yet reveal its lockdown exit roadmap.
Wales’ current lockdown rules had been extended last month and will remain in place until at least next week.
Scotland and England both revealed their respective lockdown exit plans last week.
Non-essential retail in England will be able to reopen as early as April 12, while in Scotland this will be April 26.
with PA Wires