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Deputy First Minister releases statement stating concerns over the impact of lifting restrictions

Northern Ireland’s Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill has released a statement on Wednesday afternoon in which she’s shared her concerns over the Chief Medical Officer’s stark warning that people will die as a result of current restrictions being lifted.

It comes as Northern Ireland political parties are locked in debate and discussions over the way forward with the present COVID restrictions set to end at midnight on Thursday.

In the statement Ms O’Neill said:

“Last night, Sinn Féin, the UUP, the SDLP and the Alliance Party voted in favour of the health minister’s proposals to extend restrictions.

“The DUP blocked those proposals.

“I am clear that the Executive's approach must be guided by public health advice because the priority must be to save lives, support workers, families and businesses, and to ensure that people's livelihoods are protected.

“At the Executive we were warned by the Chief Medical Officer that any easing of the current restrictions would cause ‘excess deaths’.

“The advice was stark and clear – if we don’t keep current restrictions in place for another two weeks, more people will die.

“My priority has been to save lives, protect livelihoods and ensure that our health service would not be overwhelmed by the spread of the virus.

“Last night the Health Minister brought forward a paper which made it very clear there should be an extension of the current restrictions for another two weeks to reduce the spread of the virus and its impact on society.

“The health minister’s proposal to extend the restrictions was put to a vote in the Executive.

“Sinn Féin, the UUP, the SDLP and the Alliance Party, a majority of the Executive voted in favour of the health minister’s proposals.

“The DUP voted against, used their veto and blocked the Health Minister's proposal.

“The Coronavirus doesn’t recognise or respect any community, it is a threat to all our people. The Chief Medical Officer's advice last night was stark and clear that easing of the restrictions would cause excess deaths.

“We will return to the Executive today and my approach will continue to be guided by the medical advice and the Executive’s joint policy objective to save lives, prevent our health service and workers being overwhelmed and provide financial support for businesses, workers and their families.

“Four weeks on, workers and low-income families are still waiting on financial help promised by the Department of Economy. That delay is unacceptable and needs to be fixed immediately.”