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Coronavirus lockdown restrictions in Northern Ireland will be extended until 5 March, the first and deputy first ministers have announced.

The executive backed the health minister’s proposal yesterday (January 21) and will review the move on 18 February.

Ministers have been told that restrictions may stay in place until after the Easter holidays.

NI’s third national lockdown, which began after Christmas, saw the closure of non-essential retail and employees were also encouraged to work from home when possible.

People have been ordered to stay at home for all but essential reasons and family gatherings have been banned.

Schools will remain closed to most pupils until after the February half-term, but a paper looking at reopening them will be put to ministers at next week’s executive meeting.

The lockdown came amid a spike in cases following the relaxation of some rules over the Christmas period.

First Minister Arlene Foster said extending the restrictions was an “appropriate and necessary response” to tackle the “imminent threat” posed by Covid-19.

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said it was a difficult decision to prolong the curbs, which will be reviewed next month.

She added: “It has been a long and hard road for all.

“There is no doubt that there are better days ahead but we need to keep working together right now to save lives and protect the health service.

“We know that we are asking a lot of everyone, we will do everything we can to make sure you are supported during this time.”

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