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Covid-19 claims nine more lives as NI death toll rises to 347

Coronavirus social distancing

The Department of Health has announced a further nine people who tested positive for Covid-19 have died in Northern Ireland.

It brings the confirmed total here to 347.

Meanwhile, the removal of lockdown measures in the Republic of Ireland will be “slow and gradual” according to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

Changes, he said, will be made every two to four weeks with a plan to be approved on Friday.

“We’ll provide a pathway and give hope to people that there is light at the end of the tunnel,” he said.

“But it can’t be false hope. We’re still in the tunnel and there is a long way to go.”

In Northern Ireland, Environment minister Edwin Poots said “a little bit normality” after he called for churches and garden centres to reopen, however, SDLP Infrastructure minister Nichola Mallon says debating the lifting of current restrictions publicly is “not useful”.

Sinn Fein said that restrictions put in place to save lives “are tough but remain absolutely necessary”.

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