The Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland, Michelle O'Neill, has urged people not to get their hopes up in anticipation of the country's lockdown measures being reviewed next week.
Speaking to BBC Northern Ireland's The View on Thursday evening, the Sinn Fein politician warned that any potential changes to the current Covid-19 restrictions would be "gradual and slow."
O'Neill's comments came after Environment Minister Edwin Poots suggested that churches should be able to open with social distancing measures in place. The minister said that the public now fully understands the need for taking precautions and insisted that if off-licenses were allowed to operate, churches should be open too. Mr Poots said that Northern Ireland had "put coronavirus into reverse," through strict observance to the lockdown rules, and suggested that "drive-in" churches should be considered.
“If you have a church where you can’t facilitate social distancing but people want to come together, can you do it in drive-in churches, for example, so that people don’t get out of their cars and they listen to the service through the radio but they still gather?" he asked.
“Those are all questions that we as an Executive have to look at.”
O'Neill insisted that his comments were "unhelpful."
There is no "quick fix," she said. "We're going to have to work our way through it as best as we can."
As of Friday, Northern Ireland has logged 365 coronavirus-related deaths. Out of 23,381 people tested, 3,623 have been confirmed to have the disease.