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The Health Minister has today announced more details of our testing and contact tracing programme which will be a crucial element of our efforts to move out of lockdown.

Contact tracing teams are being scaled up with the recruitment of nursing professionals, environmental health officers and volunteers to staff call centres.

Covid-19 test centres are also operational in Belfast, Londonderry, Craigavon and Enniskillen.

We are also acutely aware of the challenges and difficulties facing those of you shielding with underlying health conditions, confined to home.

Asking you to shield from others was a huge ask but it was also a necessary one in the face of a novel virus.

The advice to shield will not remain in place for any longer than it needs to and that is why it is right to update you on how the shielding programme will progress over the coming weeks and months.

It is important to stress that the virus still presents a high risk to anyone in an extremely vulnerable group and the advice remains that staying at home is the best way to prevent infection.

However, with the level of infection in the community falling, the risk of exposure is significantly less than it has been over the last two months.

Therefore, in consultation with the Chief Medical Officer and the Chief Scientific adviser, we can advise that from next Monday, 8th June, those who are shielding will be able to spend time outside with people from their own household or one person from another household whilst ensuring social distancing is observed.

We believe this is a reasonable and proportionate first step. People who are shielding will receive a letter with further advice in the coming days.

Furthermore, throughout June we will continue to monitor the progress of the virus. If the rate of transmission continues on a downward trend, then, in consultation with our scientific and medical advisors, we will consider further relaxations for those who are shielding.

Before the current shielding period ends, we will provide further clarity about how we will continue to protect those shielding and others who are clinically vulnerable.

There has been some confusion around whether over 70s fall into the same category as those shielding.

Over 70s are not automatically in the shielded group but they are vulnerable.

As such, they are advised to be particularly strict when following social distancing guidance. They are at increased risk of severe disease and would need to continue to be particularly careful if they take advantage of any of the new relaxations.

Also today, the Executive approved a proposal from the Economy Minister to allow for the reopening of hotels, guesthouses, bed and breakfasts and hostels from 20th July.

Self-catering properties, caravan sites and holiday and home parks may also reopen from this date.

However, this will only happen if the virus remains under control. We will monitor this closely.

The rolling back of these and other restrictions will very much depend on how all of us act in the coming weeks and how we limit the spread of Covid-19.

That means restricting your activities in public and exercising your rights proportionately and responsibly.

You must limit your public activity to only those measures that have been deemed safe by this Executive and not anticipate the lifting of restrictions that may come down the line.

Most of you, I know, have been following the advice.

However, despite warnings from Ministers, from the Chief Medical and Scientific Officers and the Chief Constable, we have seen over the weekend more evidence of complacency setting in and in the worst cases, there has been a flagrant disregard for public safety.

Scenes like the ones witnessed in Ballyholme beach on Friday night are simply not acceptable.

To compound that further assaulting a police officer is an insult to the police, emergency services and health service staff who have been put their own safety at risk to keep order and prevent widescale death.

The world has not beaten Covid-19. This is a global pandemic, without a vaccine yet.

It still dwells among us and it loves mass gatherings.

All of us want Northern Ireland to return as quickly as possible to something like the society we took for granted three months ago.

Unfortunately, you will prolong that journey if you ignore the public health advice and create the conditions where the Coronavirus can thrive.

The focus of this Executive throughout this pandemic has always been on saving lives and protecting our population.

We make no apologies for that.

The messages we have repeated endlessly from the start of this emergency are as crucial today as they were at the peak.

Only engage in permissible travel.

Observe social distancing in public.

Keep washing your hands regularly and thoroughly.

Keep your distance.

That is how we will defeat this virus.