Ladies and gentlemen, before I begin, I just want to say a few words about the search for the missing teenager, Noah Donohoe.
Our thoughts in the Executive are obviously with Noah’s family today and, particularly, his mother Fiona who is having to go through the kind of nightmare no parent should have to endure.
Over the past few days, the people of Belfast and beyond have rallied around the Donohoe family by getting behind efforts to locate Noah.
As people from all backgrounds have scoured the streets of the city, we have seen Belfast at its best and we know all of you will continue to work with the police as they try to find him.
I would appeal to those of you who have unoccupied houses to check them as well as garages, gardens or outhouses in the north of the city just in case Noah is there.
I urge those of you who have CCTV footage that could help police trace his whereabouts to please check it.
In the meantime, I would encourage Noah’s family and friends to stay strong in what, I can only imagine, is the most stressful of situations.
Please know that everyone stands with you, and the safe return of Noah is very much in our thoughts.
The Executive today received an update from the Health Minister and his team on the ongoing efforts to limit the spread of Covid-19 in Northern Ireland.
The estimated R value remains at 0.6 to 0.9. The average daily number of positive cases is now less than 5 and the total number of infectious individuals is estimated to be less than 600.
Yesterday, the working group of church and faith leaders met again and they had a very productive engagement involving Junior Ministers Lyons and Kearney and the Chief Medical Officer and Chief Scientific Adviser.
Further to those discussions, the Executive is pleased to announce that places of worship will be permitted to open from 29th June, provided all appropriate mitigation measures are observed.
The Executive also confirmed today the reopening, as planned, within the public health guidelines of:
self-catering tourist accommodation, caravan parks and campsites from 26th June;
hotels, restaurants, bars, cafes and coffee shops from 3rd July;
visitor attractions from 3rd July, with the exception of museums and galleries;
close contact services such as nail, hair and beauty from 6th July.
Our elite athletes have been allowed to train outdoors and today the Executive has agreed elite athletes will be able to use indoor training facilities too from 29th June.
The Executive is also publishing today a broader indicative timeline for further relaxation of restrictions.
These provisional dates will allow people to plan for the resumption of activities and will be subject to ratification closer to the time by the Executive in consultation with the medical and scientific advice.
Some of the proposed areas for opening incorporated in the timetable include:
- betting shops from 3rd July
- additional close contact services such as tattoo parlours, reflexology and complimentary therapies from 6th July
- indoor gyms and outdoor playgrounds from 10th July
- libraries from 16th July
- competitive sport from 17th July
-and leisure centres, and soft play areas from 7th August.
The Executive had further detailed discussions today around physical distancing.
Everyone’s objective should always be to stay 2 metres apart from those from other households, whenever possible.
However, a minimum 1m distance between individuals can be considered acceptable in circumstances where appropriate mitigations are made.
This issue is of particular relevance to the hospitality industry and we will need that sector to work closely with Executive Ministers.
The deputy First Minister, Economy Minister and I will meet with representatives of the hospitality sector to reinforce our expectations on that front.
All of the relaxations announced by the Executive in recent days have been brought about by the efforts you have made to keep yourselves and others safe.
We have made significant progress, but the last place any of us want to be is having to see those relaxations rolled back at some point in the future.
That would be extremely disappointing for each and every one of us but it would particularly damaging for businesses.
Northern Ireland is opening up again, gradually.
However, there’s an onus is on all of us not to ease up the fight against Covid-19.
We must continue to be vigilant and sensible in how we act.
To unlock the other relaxations signalled today, it will require the same self-discipline you have shown since March.
It will require you to exercise the freedoms you have regained sensitively and responsibly.
When in public, you must remain conscious at all times of the threat Covid-19 still poses.
That means observing at all times the latest guidance on social distancing and hand hygiene.
It means moving quickly to self-isolate with others in your home if you suspect you have the virus, contacting the test and trace team,
arranging a Covid-19 test and mapping out your movements in recent days, so others who may have been infected can be alerted.
It means ensuring that your business has appropriate signage, social distancing measures and protective measures in place for staff and customers.
It means not gambling with your and other people’s lives by flouting the public health advice.
The lesson of the past few months is clear, if we are to continue to suppress the virus and keep making progress- Stay safe. Save lives. Work safe. Save lives.