COVID-19: Northern Ireland's lockdown extended to 1 April - but some children to return to school earlier

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Northern Ireland's lockdown will be extended to 1 April but some children will return to school earlier, First Minister Arlene Foster has confirmed.

Speaking at a news conference, Ms Foster said the Northern Ireland Executive was taking a "pragmatic and sensible" approach to restrictions.

While the current lockdown measures would remain in force for some weeks yet, Ms Foster said there would be a relaxing of some rules prior to 1 April.

Under the phased return of schools, from 8 March primary school pupils in year groups P1 to P3 will return to face-to-face learning.

On 22 March, secondary pupils in key exam years - year groups 12 to 14 - will return to school.

But P1 to P3 pupils will go back to remote learning for a week on that date - for the week prior to the Easter holidays - to minimise the impact on infection rates of years 12-14 returning.

The Executive has also agreed to relax the rules on outdoor gatherings, with groups of 10 or more from no more than two households able to gather outdoors from 8 March.

Click and collect will be permitted for shops selling baby equipment, clothing and footwear, and electrical goods from 8 March.

And the main lockdown restrictions, set to remain until 1 April, will be subject to a review on 18 March.

Ms Foster said the Executive would publish a "decision-making framework" for Northern Ireland's exit from lockdown on 1 March.