Civil servants asked to finalise lockdown exit plan details

Officials have been asked to clarify some areas before the Executive formally signs off on the blueprint which may be published on Tuesday.

Civil servants asked to finalise lockdown exit plan details

Stormont ministers have asked civil servants to finalise details of Northern Ireland’s lockdown exit strategy.

Ministers met on Monday morning to examine the plan for a gradual easing of restrictions in the region.

It is understood officials have been asked to clarify some areas before the Executive formally signs off on the blueprint.

It is now looking more likely that the strategy will be made public on Tuesday.

Ministers are due to meet again on Tuesday morning.

Executive discussions on Monday are understood to have been of a technical nature, with ministers generally in agreement on the shape of the document.

First Minister Arlene Foster and deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill plan to unveil it on the floor of the Stormont Assembly when it is ready.

Ministers have already made clear the blueprint will be led by data, not dates.

Stormont executive meeting
First Minister Arlene Foster (right) and deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill (Presseye/PA)

The initial phase is understood to titled “cautious first steps”.

Mrs Foster has said the devolved executive will review the level of restrictions every three weeks.

Northern Ireland’s current lockdown and accompanying stay-at-home message is in place until April 1. Ministers are due to review that policy on March 18.

The executive has already outlined plans for a phased return of face-to-face learning at schools in Northern Ireland.

Only vulnerable children and those of key workers have been attending classes in mainstream schools since January.

P1 to P3 primary school children will return to school on March 8, and on March 22 secondary school children in key exam years – years 12-14 – will go back to class.

On that same date, the P1 to P3s are currently due to revert to home learning for one week ahead of the Easter holidays – to mitigate the impact on infection rates of the secondary school cohort’s return.

However, officials from the departments of health and education were tasked last week to examine that aspect of the plan and Mrs Foster has expressed hope that those primary pupils will ultimately be able to remain in school that week.

No date has so far been given for the return of the wider school population.

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