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Stormont Executive agrees series of lockdown easements for Northern Ireland

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Stormont ministers have agreed a series of lockdown relaxations including a timetable for returning all schoolchildren to classes in Northern Ireland

Modest and small steps focus on outdoor gatherings and sporting activities as well as click and collect services for non-essential retail outlets.

The “stay at home” rule is also set to lift next month, replaced with a “stay local” message.

First Minister Arlene Foster said: “Our responsibility to you is to look carefully at how we can improve the situation for you in a careful and sustainable way.

“We want to give you hope and we have discussed today a number of small steps which we hope will be welcome.”

Primary pupils in years P1 to P3 are already back in classes and secondary school children in year groups 12 to 14 are due back on Monday March 22.

Ministers have agreed that remaining primary pupils in P4 to P7 will also return on March 22.

The final cohort, secondary pupils in years eight to 11, will go back to classes on April 12 after the Easter holidays, though this step is subject to an Executive review of the public health picture at the end of March.

Coronavirus – Mon Mar 15, 2021 / PA Wire

Mrs Foster said: “So today, having taken into account the prevailing Covid situation, and with care and caution, Primary 4 to Primary 7 should return fully from 22 March and all pupils including Years 8-11 will fully resume on 12 April.

“These decisions are aimed primarily at getting our children back to school in the safest way possible, with mitigations and preparation time. That has benefits for us all.

“We have been very concerned throughout about the impacts for the education of our young people and we know that the education sector will pull together to help address that.”

Mrs Foster said the broad approach was “cautious but optimistic”.

In terms of the wider lockdown restrictions, ministers have agreed:

– Up to six people from no more than two households can meet outdoors in a private garden.– Ten people, from no more than two households, able to participate in outdoor sporting activities. Golf courses to reopen (clubhouses to remain closed).– Click and collect purchases allowed from garden centres and plant nurseries.

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