The DUP’s Jeffrey Donaldson has said that he believes the Northern Ireland Executive will reach an agreement today about Covid-19 restrictions.
The Northern Ireland executive has been discussing the next step as their four-week circuit breaker lockdown is due to end at midnight on Friday.
It has also emerged that politicians in the North had been working to the wrong deadline, thinking the restrictions were due to end at midnight tonight.
Mr Donaldson, speaking to RTÉ radio's Morning Ireland said people needed to be able to return to work.
The lack of clarity has been heavily criticised with the lack of a decision from Stormont leading to confusion for business owners and workers.
Deputy first minister, Sinn Féin’s Michelle O’Neill said that it was very clear what needed to be done – extend the restrictions for two weeks, but the DUP was ignoring the advice of the chief medical officer.
A range of options were on the table, she said, but they all had to be looked at in the context of public health advice. “The chief medical officer gave us a stark warning.” Not extending the restrictions would lead to deaths.
“It’s a game changer when the chief medical officer is saying that to do anything else will cost lives.”
Ms O’Neill acknowledged that a two-week extension would have an impact on people’s lives, but she said a two-week extension was the public health advice.
Mr Donaldson said that the different parties in the Executive had different views on the proposals and they were trying to come to a consensus. He said the DUP was acting in the interests of everyone and they wanted to see an outcome that was proportionate.
There should be an increase in testing in care settings and no change with regard to restrictions in social settings, he said. However, it was important that people be able to return to work safely.
“I don’t want people dying from the coronavirus. We need to protect and focus where the risk is the highest.”
The DUP will look very carefully at what is being proposed by the other parties in the Executive and they will work to achieve consensus, he added.
“I believe the Executive will reach agreement today.”
The Executive had demonstrated, over the past nine months, its capacity to achieve consensus and to reach decisions, he said. That takes time on occasion. “Sometimes we have to work harder to achieve consensus.”