NI Executive keeps calls to reduce social distancing to one metre ‘under review’

The Northern Ireland Executive is keeping calls to reduce the two metre social distancing guideline “under review”.

First Minister Arlene Foster said the Stormont Executive will engage with the UK Government around its plans.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to make announcements around this issue on Tuesday.

There have been calls from the hospitality sector to make the reduction from two metres to one.

“We’ll certainly be looking to see what the Prime Minister has to say about that, what the evidence is around that, what the mitigations will be to try and deal with moving from two to one metres if he announces some details around that,” Mrs Foster said.

“We will be engaging with the Westminster Government tomorrow to find out what the evidence base is for all that.”

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill added: “We have always said we will keep this issue under continual review, that remains the case all the while guided by our own scientific and medical officers’ advice.”

Meanwhile, Ms O’Neill said the advice from the Executive remains a strong recommendation to wear face coverings.

A woman wearing a face covering passes a shop window in Belfast
A woman wearing a face covering passes a shop window in Belfast (Brian Lawless/PA)

“The advice today from both the chief scientific officer and the chief medical officer was that we’re in a position where we should be strongly recommending face coverings, and particularly in circumstances where you can’t socially distance or the room isn’t well ventilated, or indeed public transport,” she said.

Mrs Foster added: “People also need to bear in mind if they are wearing a face mask they’re not immune from either transmitting or indeed catching the virus. One of our concerns is that people become quite complacent when they wear a face mask because they think it is some sort of barrier to the disease, and of course it’s not. It’s an aid to help stop the disease but it is not a barrier.”

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