First of all, the entire community was devastated on Saturday to learn of the death of the missing teenager, Noah Donohoe.
Noah clearly was a very talented and loving kid who excelled at maths, at music and as a basketball and rugby player.
From the statements issued by his family, St Malachy’s College and his friends, it is clear he was deeply loved.
We have been cruelly robbed of a young man who had a bright future ahead of him and a lot to offer this society.
To his mum Fiona and family, I’d like to express our deepest condolences. You are having to bear an incredible pain at this time but please take heart in the support you have received in recent days across Belfast, Northern Ireland and beyond.
I would urge everyone who has rallied around the Donohoe family to continue to keep them in your thoughts and support them in the difficult weeks and months ahead.
The Health Minister advised us this afternoon that this is the third day in a row now without any Covid patients in ICU. There are currently 19 Covid cases in our hospitals.
Last Friday, saw the reopening of holiday and tourism accommodation in Northern Ireland such as cottages, apartments, camping sites and caravan parks. It also saw people who are fortunate enough to own a second home being able to travel there.
Indoor training for elite and grassroots athletes and contact sport training resumed from today and places of worship have also been allowed to hold religious services, provided they can follow social distancing and public hygiene guidelines.
The Executive has today reviewed the Health Protection (Coronavirus, International Travel) (Northern Ireland) Regulations which came into
operation on 8 June. The Executive agreed the Regulations are still required. Further discussions are ongoing including with Westminster and the Joint Biosecurity Centre, and the Executive will consider potential amendments to these regulations at Thursday’s meeting.
The Executive discussed the issue of driving instructors again today. Driving instructors are not restricted from working and the focus should be on ensuring mitigations are in place to keep people safe.
It is crucial that public health advice is followed to keep instructors and their customers safe. DVA has signposted instructors to advice it should consider for resuming lessons safely, with the ADI National Joint Council have published guidance for instructors. The DFI Minister indicated work is ongoing by DVA to gradually begin reinstating some initial driver testing where this can be done safely and in line with PHA advice.
As sections of society start opening up, the ability to meet people outdoors has undoubtedly brought benefits for social interaction, support networks, family ties and informal childcare arrangements.
In line with our indicative timeline the Executive today discussed, as the planned next step increasing the number of people who can meet outdoors from 10 to 30.
We agreed this afternoon to ratify that increase up to 30 in line with our plan.
It will not alter the situation for indoor home visits, pubs and restaurants, or hotel conventions.
In the coming days, hotels, bars serving food, restaurants, cafes, visitor attractions, betting shops, hairdressing salons and barbers, beauty treatment businesses and gyms will reopen.
All of these are vital jigsaw pieces in the revival of our economy and the piecing together of a normal society.
However we need to be clear that it is not business as usual.
The deputy First Minister and I have been very clear in recent weeks that while we have managed to suppress the spread of this virus in communities throughout Northern Ireland, it has not been beaten.
While the hunt for a vaccine continues and while the rate of infection remains under control, we cannot assume that that will always the case.
We must do everything to ensure we avoid a spike in cases that could take us backwards, and that is why we are appealing to everyone to continue to behave cautiously as they exercise recently regained activities.
Having come so far, imagine how much of a blow it would be to this society and economy if we have to return to some form of lockdown?
The message is clear: Stay safe. Save lives. Work safe. Save lives