Stormont Executive to discuss easing of pandemic rules around hugging

Stormont Executive to discuss easing of pandemic rules around hugging

Shoppers in Belfast with shops reopening and hospitality is able to open outdoors in Northern Ireland where lockdown restrictions have begun to gradually ease (Mark Marlow/PA)

The Stormont Executive is set to discuss the possibility of easing pandemic rules around hugging, the First Minister has said.

Arlene Foster said ministers have noted developments in the rest of the UK after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said people in England would be able to hug each other “with caution” from May 17.

She said hugging as well as international travel will feature in discussions around the coronavirus regulations at the next meeting of the Executive on Thursday.

Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster (Niall Carson/PA)

She said it would be “absolutely wrong” to prejudge what ministers will decide.

“We will want to discuss that (hugging) tomorrow, it is something we are discussing today amongst ourselves as well,” she said.

“We know that there is a lot of people who have been waiting for that time, I know certainly I have in terms of my own mother, so I am looking forward to being able to have those discussions tomorrow.”

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill added: “We are hoping that we’ll be able to make some progress around all these things, we are in a really good place in terms of the pandemic, we are winning.

“The Covid vaccine continues to be first class, so if things keep moving in the right direction we hope to be able to lift even more of the restrictions that are in place and get back to some sense of normality.”

No further deaths of patients who had previously tested positive for coronavirus have been reported in Northern Ireland.

The Department of Health notified 113 new positive cases of the virus in the last 24-hour period.

On Wednesday morning there were 50 inpatients in hospital who were Covid positive, of whom four were in intensive care.

On the same day, 1,501,023 vaccines had been administered.

They include just under one million first doses and over 500,000 second jabs.

A third of the adult population has received two vaccines, and over a third have got one jab.

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