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Covid-19: Still no agreement over North’s restrictions

STORMONT ministers were warned by the North’s Chief Medical Officer that more people would die if Covid-19 restrictions were not extended for a further two weeks, Sinn Fein’s leader in the North has said.

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill was speaking out this morning as the Executive prepared to meet for a third day to meet for a third day in a bid to reach agreement.

The current laws governing the restrictions are due to expire at midnight tomorrow (Thursday).

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She said, “Last night, Sinn Féin, the UUP, the SDLP and the Alliance Party voted in favour of the health minister’s proposals to extend restrictions.

“The DUP blocked those proposals.

“I am clear that the Executive’s approach must be guided by public health advice because the priority must be to save lives, support workers, families and businesses, and to ensure that people’s livelihoods are protected.”

The Mid Ulster MLA said, “Last night at the Executive we were warned by the Chief Medical Officer that any easing of the current restrictions would cause ‘excess deaths’.

“The advice was stark and clear – if we don’t keep current restrictions in place for another two weeks, more people will die.

“Last night the Health Minister brought forward a paper which made it very clear there should be an extension of the current restrictions for another two weeks to reduce the spread of the virus and its impact on society.

“The health minister’s proposal to extend the restrictions was put to a vote in the Executive.

“Sinn Féin, the UUP, the SDLP and the Alliance Party, a majority of the Executive voted in favour of the health minister’s proposals.

“The DUP voted against, used their veto and blocked the Health Minister’s proposal.”

The Sinn Fein vice-president said Covid-19 didn’t recognise or respect any community and was a threat to all.

She said, “The Chief Medical Officer’s advice last night was stark and clear that easing of the restrictions would cause excess deaths.

“We will return to the Executive today and my approach will continue to be guided by the medical advice and the Executive’s joint policy objective to save lives, prevent our health service and workers being overwhelmed and provide financial support for businesses, workers and their families.”

The MLA added, “Four weeks on, workers and low-income families are still waiting on financial help promised by the Department of Economy. That delay is unacceptable and needs to be fixed immediately.”

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