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Today, the Executive has been discussing the roadmap towards emerging from the restrictive measures Covid has had us living under.

I know that people want to get back to normal as soon as possible and have certainty as to when that might be, however, it can only be a gradual and phased normalisation, and reliant on the expert scientific advice.

The Economy Minister is also working on a further paper dedicated to Economic Recovery which will dovetail with the roadmap and be published subsequently in the coming days.

While the Executive continues to liaise closely with the UK Government, with our counterparts in Wales and Scotland and also with the Irish Government, the reality is that the devolved administrations are going to diverge slightly and at particular points in time, mindful of the different circumstances in each region including the stage the spread of the disease is at.

However we remain committed to working closely with all administrations- sharing information and insights on Covid-19.

To that end, we welcome the announcement by the Prime Minister on the establishment of a new Joint Biosecurity Centre to monitor the levels of infection and identify specific actions in regions where spikes occur. The devolved administrations will participate in and contribute to its work.

Last Thursday the Executive decided to keep Northern Ireland’s restrictions in place for three weeks, with just some minor adjustments to be considered over the next few days.

The current advice from the Executive remains to stay at home as much as possible.

Respect the 2m social distancing rule at all times when in public and continue to wash your hands thoroughly and regularly.

And if you live apart from elderly relatives and other family members, you must continue to avoid direct contact with them in their homes.

You should only go out in public to shop for basic necessities, get medicines, exercise, or to work in line with the Coronavirus Regulations.

The Executive agreed last week however that we need to enhance the messaging around what people are permitted to do. There is scope for clearer messaging from Departments to different sectors of the economy, such as construction and manufacturing.

It is not surprising that people are erring on the side of caution and not engaging in activities that are in fact permissible, safe and beneficial. This is understandable, given the extremely unusual and worrying times we are living through.

The Executive agreed to consider messaging aimed at giving people the knowledge and confidence to enable them to live their lives as freely as possible within the existing legislative constraints and in line with public health advice, including a safe return to work. The Department of Health has committed to taking this forward with other Departments.

After eight weeks of lockdown, I know many of you are desperate to get back to the life you had before this health emergency erupted.

You want to see your family and friends. You want to hug those close to you that you haven’t been able to see. Grandparents, especially, want to spend time with their grandchildren.

Many of you also want to get back into a routine of work and of study.

However, as the First Minister and deputy First Minister have repeatedly said, we all need to be realistic about what life will be like in the months ahead.

There will be no dramatic lifting of all restrictions.

Each step will be incremental and cautious.

Social distancing is going to be with us for a very long time.

Just as it has become a reality of how we shop, it will be a reality of how we work together, study together, how we socialise and even how we worship.

As the First Minister keeps saying it would be a grave mistake to assume we have beat Covid-19. It would be reckless to act as if we have.

Once the Executive roadmap is published, all of us will still have a role to play in containing the spread of this invisible killer virus if we are to continue to keep the pressure off our brave health workers.

The way to do that is to listen closely to the public health advice issued by the Executive and to continue following that advice.

We don’t just owe it to the NHS. You owe it to each and every one of your fellow citizens.