"Now is the time to take action" - NI Deputy First Minister calls for all-island response
There are 90 confirmed cases of Covid-19 on the island of Ireland.
Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland Michelle O'Neill has called for an all-island approach to the threat of Covid-19 and says all schools, colleges and universities need to close.
While these measures, and more, were implemented by Leo Varadkar's caretaker government on Thursday in the Republic of Ireland, the United Kingdom continues to be at odds with both Ireland and the rest of Europe in responding to the pandemic.
All public institutions continue to remain open in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, while sporting occasions such as Cheltenham have largely remained unaffected until today, as a number of sporting events were suspended.
Speaking this morning, the Sinn Féin vice-president called for immediate action north of the border to prevent the spread of the virus.
"I believe that, on the back of the public concern that's clearly there, on the back of the angst that's there among the wider public, that now is the time to take action," she said.
"Now is the time to ensure that all schools are closed, that universities and colleges are closed, and that needs to happen immediately. I think the fact that there has been contradictory medical evidence out there is a problem. It's a problem for people whenever they're trying to make the right decisions for them and their families. So I believe, given that as a situation, that we need to err on the side of caution."
As of today, there are 90 confirmed cases of the virus on the island of Ireland, with one confirmed death south of the border to date. O'Neill says the Stormont Assembly needs to act decisively, and in conjunction with Varadkar's government.
"I think we need to give people that assurance, the reassurance they're looking for in terms of a government approach," O'Neill added.
"So I'm going to work with executive colleagues, I will go to the North-South ministerial council meeting tomorrow, but it's very clear, in my mind, that what we need to see is one approach across this island, one message that's consistent, so as the public are not even more confused to what they are as we speak today."
As of today many European countries have taken action
In the South, schools are closing & gatherings cancelled
I have spoken to sporting organisations, schools & parents. People are concerned
Now is the time to take action in the North to close schools, universities & colleges pic.twitter.com/BAz0nu6W3j
— Michelle O’Neill (@moneillsf) March 13, 2020