Coronavirus restrictions 'will last more than three weeks'

24 March 2020

Restrictions on movement in Northern Ireland will last longer than three weeks, the first minister has said.

Arlene Foster said a range of things would need to be reviewed after the initial period.

But she said if she was a "betting person" she would think the measures to slow the spread of coronavirus would continue beyond Easter.

The unprecedented measures were announced by Boris Johnson on Monday night.

He introduced the Coronavirus Bill, which introduces sweeping measures aimed at preventing the spread of the disease and which will be reviewed in three weeks' time.

It will be passed at Westminster, but on Tuesday the Northern Ireland Assembly will also debate the legislation, which aims to force people to stay at home.

Speaking to the BBC's Good Morning Ulster programme, Mrs Foster acknowledged the situation was confusing for people.

She also said she would ask for credit unions to be added to the list of essential services in Northern Ireland which are allowed to stay open.

People can only leave their homes for very limited purposes such as shopping for necessities and medicine.

One form of exercise per day and essential travel to work is allowed, but gatherings of more than two people have also been banned.

Commenting on the latest measures, Mrs Foster said: "These new rules on social distancing may seem extreme but they are absolutely crucial in slowing the spread of this virus.