Extended period of remote learning for schools in NI

The Executive has announced the need for an extended period of remote learning for schools in Northern Ireland.

Ministers met on Monday evening to discuss the introduction of new coronavirus restrictions.

A statement from the Executive Office said Education Minister Peter Weir will bring forward a paper on the extension of remote learning when the Executive reconvenes again on Tuesday.

It said ministers had agreed to move to "put staying at home into regulations" and said "a paper will be brought to the Executive tomorrow setting out the detail, including restrictions on travel".

The statement added: "The Executive will consider further advice from the Department of Health setting out the public health situation and future implications, and Ministers will update the Assembly on Wednesday on the decisions they reach at tomorrow’s meeting."

It comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a new national lockdown for England in a bid to curb the spread of Covid-19.

In a televised update on Monday evening, Mr Johnson said schools will shut and people will be told to stay at home from Tuesday.

The Prime Minister said the weeks ahead would be the "hardest yet", but added that he believed the country was entering "the last phase of the struggle".

Earlier, the Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said Scotland will be placed into lockdown from midnight, with a legal requirement to stay at home.

First Minister Arlene Foster said the "stay at home" message in Northern Ireland will be "put back into law" again, following a huge rise in coronavirus cases.

She says the region faces a "dire" situation as the pandemic worsens.

Ms Foster said: "Tomorrow we will come back together again to talk about what additional issues we need to deal with in terms in schools.

"In terms of travel as well.

"Something we discussed today with the other administrations across the United Kingdom, because we recognise that international travel will have to be reviewed again as well."

According to the latest figures from the Health Department, a further 12 people have died with Covid-19 in Northern Ireland.

Ten deaths happened within the most recent 24-hour recording period and two outside it.

A further 1,801 people have tested positive for coronavirus, and the total number of positive cases in the past week has risen to 12,507.

Monday saw the beginning of the Oxford/Astrazeneca vaccine roll-out at GP practices here, with over-80s among the first to receive the jab.

Chief Medical Officer Dr Michael McBride said: “Today marks the first phase of our population vaccination programme and is a positive step forward.

"The vaccine programme will transform the situation, but as always, we must all remain patient."

It comes as Northern Ireland is now into the second week of a six-week lockdown, in which services including non-essential retail remain closed.