Coveney to discuss coronavirus with leaders in the North

Simon Coveney will speak to Northern secretary Brandon Lewis and Stormont's first and deputy first ministers.
Coveney to discuss coronavirus with leaders in the North

The Tánaiste will discuss the coronavirus crisis with ministers in Northern Ireland later today.

Simon Coveney will speak to Northern secretary Brandon Lewis and Stormont's first and deputy first ministers.

It will be the first time Mr Lewis will be involved in cross-border cooperation discussions.

The meeting is expected to take place around 12pm.

Today, Professor Gabriel Scally criticised the North's testing regime for Covid-19, saying it could lead to more deaths than in Ireland.

First Minister Arlene Foster insists the North has strong rules in place to prevent the spread of the virus.

Yesterday, Stormont’s leaders acknowledged that they are at odds on certain coronavirus issues, but have insisted they are united on the main goal of saving lives.

Arlene Foster and Michelle O’Neill said differences of opinion should be expected within a five-party coalition government.

The First Minister and Deputy First Minister were responding to reports of growing tensions around the executive table over issues such as testing numbers, personal protection equipment stocks and closure of non-essential businesses.

Earlier this month, the two main executive parties, the DUP and Sinn Féin, were also divided on when schools should close.

At the leaders’ daily Covid-19 press briefing at Stormont on Monday, Mrs Foster said: “We are a five-party executive, I don’t think there is anybody who shies away from that fact.

“But be very clear – we know that this is a national emergency, we know that we have to step up to the plate and whatever differences we may have about emphasis, or ways of doing things, or who do we listen to, it is important that we are able to be free to have those discussions at the executive, then come forward with a common strategy and that is what we’ve done today.”

With 123 new cases of the infection reported, the number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Northern Ireland is 533.

On Monday, Ireland’s death toll rose to 54, following the report of eight more deaths.

A total of 295 new confirmed cases of Covid-19 were reported in the Republic, the highest daily total so far, bringing the overall number to 2,910.

Ireland and the North have agreed to cooperate on a number of measures including the joint order of the personal protection equipment from China.

- with reporting from Press Association.

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