Im A Celebrity: Mo Farah, Shane Richie and Victoria Derbyshire sign up

Sir Mo Farah, Shane Richie and Victoria Derbyshire are among the stars heading to a Welsh castle to take part in I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here!

The pandemic means they aren’t going to the Australian jungle as usual – this year’s series has been relocated to the ruined Gwrych Castle in Conwy.

They will be joined by actress Beverley Callard, presenter Vernon Kay and former Strictly dancer AJ Pritchard.

The series will begin on ITV next Sunday, 15 November.

EastEnders actress Jessica Plummer, BBC Radio 1 DJ Jordan North, Paralympic champion Hollie Arnold, and author and podcaster Giovanna Fletcher will also be hoping to be crowned the first king or queen of the castle.

While they won’t face the usual bush tucker trials, ITV has promised that the contestants can still look forward to “a basic diet of rice and beans and plenty of thrills and surprises”.

Preparations at the 19th Century castle have gone ahead despite the “firewall” lockdown in Wales, which ends on Monday.

The 2019 launch show was ITV’s most-watched programme of the year, seen by more than 13 million people.

Hollie Arnold

She won her fourth consecutive javelin world title at the 2019 World Para-Athletics Championships a year ago, and won a gold medal at the Rio Paralympic Games in 2016. She was appointed an MBE in 2017, and was nominated for BBC Cymru Wales Sports Personality of the Year 2019.

Beverley Callard

Best known as Coronation Street’s Liz McDonald, she began playing the ITV soap’s leopard skin-loving landlady in 1989. In 2019, she announced that she was leaving the cobbles.

Victoria Derbyshire

The BBC journalist won a Bafta for best TV news coverage in 2017, and won the Royal Television Society’s network presenter of the year and interview of the year awards in 2018. But her self-titled BBC Two show was axed as part of BBC cuts earlier this year.

Sir Mo Farah

With four Olympic gold medals, he is Britain’s most successful Olympic track and field athlete. But his participation in I’m A Celebrity… has raised questions about how the show will affect his preparation for the 10,000m at the rescheduled Tokyo Games next year.

Giovanna Fletcher

Giovanna Fletcher is an author, presenter and parenting guru, and the wife of McFly star Tom Fletcher. Her books include Happy Mum, Happy Baby: My Adventures in Motherhood, and she also presents The Baby Club at Home on CBeebies.

Vernon Kay

Kay is a former BBC Radio 1 and T4 presenter, as well as the ex-host of ITV shows including All Star Family Fortunes, Beat the Star and Splash! He is married to Tess Daly, co-presenter of I’m A Celebrity’s ratings rival Strictly Come Dancing on BBC One.

Jordan North

North hosts Radio 1’s lunchtime show from Fridays to Sundays, as well as the podcast Help I Sexted My Boss, and previously presented 4Music’s Trending Live. He started his broadcasting career as a researcher for fellow campmate Victoria Derbyshire on BBC Radio 5 Live.

Jessica Plummer

Plummer has just left EastEnders after starring as Chantelle Atkins, who was murdered by her abusive husband. Before that, Plummer was a member of girl group Neon Jungle, who had two UK top 10 hits in 2014.

AJ Pritchard

The dancer joined Strictly in 2016 and was in the show’s professional ranks for four years. But in March he announced he was leaving to “follow his dreams to explore opportunities in the presenting world alongside his brother Curtis”.

Shane Richie

He’s been a game show host, West End actor and singer, but Richie is best known for playing the lovable and long-suffering Alfie Moon in EastEnders on and off between 2002 and 2019.

Alex Trebek: Jeopardy! game show host dies with cancer aged 80

Alex Trebek, the long-time host of American television quiz show Jeopardy!, has died at the age of 80.

Mr Trebek announced he had been diagnosed with stage-four pancreatic cancer in March 2019.

The Jeopardy! Twitter account said on Sunday he had “passed away peacefully at home” surrounded by family and friends.

Mr Trebek had hosted Jeopardy! since 1984, and had received numerous awards and honours for his work.

Producer of Jeopardy!, Sony Pictures, led tributes to the “legend”, writing in a statement: “For 37 amazing years, Alex Trebek was that comforting voice, that moment of escape and entertainment at the end of a long, hard day for millions of people around the world.”

Known for his sharp wit and charisma, the Canadian-American presenter became the face of Jeopardy! during his three decades on the show, turning it into a ratings smash hit.

He fronted more than 8,200 episodes of the popular quiz show, making him among the most well-known people on television in the US and Canada.

In 2014 he set a Guinness World Record for “most game show episodes hosted by the same presenter”.

Mr Trebek had vowed to continue presenting Jeopardy! while receiving treatment including chemotherapy. He was contracted to host the show until 2022.

In a typically light-hearted tone, the presenter said in a video statement he had no choice but to beat the cancer because of his contractual obligations.

He was candid about his medical treatment, regularly updating fans on his condition.

“I am optimistic about my current plan, and thank them for their concerns,” Mr Trebek said in a statement released by Jeopardy! In July.

Mr Trebek is survived by his second wife, Jean, and his children Matthew, Emily and Nicky.

Former Jeopardy! contestant Buzzy Cohen was among the first to pay tribute to the presenter.

“Absolutely heartbreaking to lose someone who meant so much to so many. Even if this show hadn’t changed my life in so many ways, this loss would be immeasurable,” Mr Cohen tweeted.

In another tweeted tribute, Jeopardy! champion Ken Jennings said Mr Trebek was a “deeply decent man” as well as being “the best ever at what he did”.

“I’m grateful for every minute I got to spend with him,” Mr Jennings tweeted. “Thinking today about his family and his Jeopardy! family — which, in a way, included millions of us.”

Obituary: Geoffrey Palmer

With his hangdog expression and lugubrious delivery, Geoffrey Palmer was one of the best-known actors of his generation.

He cut his teeth on the stage before launching a career as a character actor in a variety of roles in film and TV.

He was perhaps most famous for a series of TV sitcoms including Butterflies, The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin and As Time Goes By.

A reserved man, he usually remained out of the public gaze when not appearing on stage or screen, and rarely gave interviews.

Geoffrey Dyson Palmer was born in London on 4 June 1927, the son of a chartered accountant.

After attending Highgate School he did his National Service in the Royal Marines, where he became an instructor, taking recruits through field training and the intricacies of using small arms.

He qualified as an accountant, but he’d always had a hankering for the stage and his girlfriend persuaded him to sign up with a local dramatic society.

There was a job as assistant stage manager at the Grand Theatre in Croydon, before he set out on the traditional actor’s apprenticeship, touring in rep.

In 1958 he moved into television with roles in the ITV series The Army Game, a sitcom based on the lives of National Service soldiers that launched the careers of a number of famous actors and led to the first Carry On film.

There followed a variety of TV character parts in episodes of The Avengers, The Saint, Gideon’s Way and The Baron.

He also appeared as a property agent in Ken Loach’s hard-hitting BBC play, Cathy Come Home.

His world-weary demeanour made him instantly recognisable although it did not reflect his real character. “I’m not grumpy,” he once said. “I just look this way.”

Despite an increasing amount of TV and film work he continued to perform in the theatre, where he received critical acclaim for his role in John Osborne’s play, West of Suez, appearing alongside Ralph Richardson.

He went on to work with Paul Scofield and Laurence Olivier before being directed by John Gielgud in a production of Noel Coward’s Private Lives.

In 1970 he played Masters in Doctor Who and the Silurians. It was the first of three appearances he would make in the franchise, returning in 1972 in Mutants and in 2007 in Voyage of the Damned.

He came to the attention of a wider audience as Jimmy Anderson, the clueless brother-in law of Leonard Rossiter in the sitcom The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin, which first aired on the BBC in 1976.

He followed this up with the part of the reserved and conservative dentist Ben in Carla Lane’s bittersweet comedy, Butterflies.

Palmer’s character sat gloomily at the end of the dinner table, unable to comprehend his adolescent sons or his wife’s midlife crisis. His world-weary take on events acted as his defence against the mayhem happening around him.

He was still much in demand as a character actor. His film appearances included A Fish Called Wanda, The Madness of King George and Clockwise.

On the small screen he played Dr Price in the Fawlty Towers episode The Kipper and the Corpse, and appeared in The Professionals, The Goodies and Whoops Apocalypse.

He also made a memorable appearance as Field Marshal Haig in Blackadder Goes Forth, casually sweeping model soldiers off a plan of the battlefield with a dustpan and brush.

In 1992 he began a role in the sitcom As Time Goes By, alongside his great friend, Judi Dench.

It followed the progress of former lovers who rekindled their relationship after a 38-year gap. It became one of the BBC’s most popular comedies and was still being shown to appreciative audiences 25 years later.

Palmer also shared the billing with Dench in the Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies and as Sir Henry Ponsonby in Mrs Brown, the story of the relationship between Queen Victoria and her servant.

With a voice as distinctive as his appearance, Palmer was much in demand as a narrator. He was heard on the BBC series Grumpy Old Men and he recorded a number of audio books including a version of A Christmas Carol for Penguin.

He also voiced some notable adverts, urging people to “slam in the lamb”, in a commercial for the Meat & Livestock Commission and he introduced a British audience to “Vorsprung durch Technik” in adverts for Audi cars.

Away from stage and screen he was a keen fly fisherman, once appearing in a DVD series, The Compleat Angler, in which he retraced Izaak Walton’s classic 17th-Century book.

In 2011 he joined the campaign to try to halt plans for the HS2 railway line, the proposed route of which ran close to his home in Buckinghamshire.

He married Sally Green in 1963 and the couple had two children.

In 2000 the British Film Institute polled industry professionals to compile a list of what they felt were the greatest British TV programmes ever screened.

Palmer was the only actor to have appeared in all of the top three – Fawlty Towers, Cathy Come Home and Doctor Who.

Geoffrey Palmer had no formal training as an actor but his innate skills kept him in almost continuous work for more than six decades.

His policy was never to turn down a part. “I love working,” he once said, “and, if I’m not working, I’m not earning.”

Jordan North: Remembrance Sunday is so important

“Remembrance Day has always been very important to us,” says Jordan North.

“There have been nine close family members who’ve served, including my dad and brother.”

The Radio 1 presenter spoke to his family about the importance of Remembrance Sunday for Newsbeat and shared their stories.

Ryan: I served in Iraq and Afghanistan and lost friends and colleagues. You never forget them but Remembrance Day gives you the chance for a bit of reflection.

But it’s not just for people I’ve lost. It’s for people that have fought through all conflicts, from World War One and Two, all the way through to the more recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

As a country, it brings people together.

It’s always good to think about them and what the nation is and what the country is because of the people that have fought for it.

Jordan: What will you be thinking about during the two-minute silence?

Ryan: The sacrifice that people made.

It’s quite a proud moment to realise what you’re willing to put yourself through as a solider and how proud you are to be a soldier and how proud you are of the people you serve with.

Graham: It’s such an important day. We’ve got so many family members who served or are still serving. Whether it’s my mum or dad, my son or nephews and nieces.

Now I’ve left the Army, I still like to get together with old veterans to toast our former colleagues who’ve been killed in operations.

Jordan: What will you be thinking about during the silence?

Graham: It’s always a chance for me to remember a couple of lads who I served with who lost their lives in Northern Ireland, back in 1987.

Private Joe Leach and Private Iain O’Connor both died during Operation Banner. We were only 20 or 21 years old.

Also my old boss, Major Tony Hornby, who also died.

It’s a day everyone should reflect on, to remember the older generation – because they’re the people who made the world a better place to live in today.

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Listen to Newsbeat live at 12:45 and 17:45 weekdays – or listen back here

Alex Trebek: Jeopardy! gameshow host dies after cancer battle aged 80

Alex Trebek, the long-time host of American television quiz show Jeopardy!, has died at the age of 80.

Mr Trebek announced he had been diagnosed with stage-four pancreatic cancer in March 2019.

The Jeopardy! Twitter account said on Sunday he had “passed away peacefully at home” surrounded by family and friends.

Mr Trebek had hosted Jeopardy! since 1984, and had received numerous awards and honours for his work.

Known for his sharp wit and charisma, the Canadian-American presenter became the face of Jeopardy! during his three decades on the show, turning it into a ratings smash hit.

He fronted thousands of episodes of the popular quiz show, making him among the most well-known people on television in the US and Canada.

In 2014 he set a Guinness World Record for “most game show episodes hosted by the same presenter”.

Mr Trebek had vowed to fight cancer and continue to present Jeopardy! while receiving treatment including chemotherapy. He was contracted to host the show until 2022.

Former Jeopardy! contestant Buzzy Cohen was among the first to pay tribute to Mr Trebek.

“Absolutely heartbreaking to lose someone who meant so much to so many. Even if this show hadn’t changed my life in so many ways, this loss would be immeasurable,” Mr Cohen tweeted.

Covid: Senior ministers interviewed in lockdown leak probe

Senior cabinet ministers have been interviewed or had their phones checked as part of a Covid leak inquiry, the BBC understands.

The investigation was launched after briefings to the press led Boris Johnson to announce England’s lockdown earlier than planned.

Sources close to a number of ministers who attended a key meeting 10 days ago have denied they had any involvement.

The Cabinet Office said it would not comment on an ongoing investigation.

The inquiry, conducted by officials, centres around a meeting held on Friday 30 October.

Senior ministers were among those to discuss new coronavirus data, with some details appearing in the media that night. The next day Mr Johnson announced England’s lockdown in a press conference.

In a message to Tory MPs on 31 October, the prime minister insisted the briefing had not come from No 10 and that he had originally hoped to reveal the measures to Parliament on Monday.

He revealed an inquiry had been set up to “catch the culprit”.

Sources close to the Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove have said he and his aides were “happy” to submit their phones for examination given they had nothing to hide.

A spokesman for Health Secretary Matt Hancock said any claims he was behind the leak were categorically untrue.

It is understood aides to Chancellor Rishi Sunak have also had their phones checked while he was interviewed last week at 11 Downing Street and that he has strongly denied any involvement.

Covid in Scotland: Pandemic stable as 1,115 test positive

The Covid-19 pandemic in Scotland is “stable”, according to a leading public health expert, as another 1,115 people tested positive for the virus in Scotland.

Three confirmed Covid deaths were registered on Saturday, a significant fall on the 39 recorded on Friday.

However, the number of deaths is usually lower at weekend as register offices are generally closed.

Prof Linda Bauld said restrictions were affecting the growth of the virus.

The latest government statistics show that, of 17,229 new tests that were carried out, 7.3% were positive.

There were 1,245 Covid patients in hospital – the same number as on Saturday – and the number of people in intensive care rose from 106 to 111.

“What we are seeing today and over recent days is the pandemic is stable really in Scotland, Prof Bauld told BBC Scotland.

“We are not seeing huge rises in the number of cases.”

She said there was a spike of about 1,500 positive cases reported on Saturday, but numbers were lower in the early part of the week.

“We are definitely not seeing the pandemic growing in the way it might have been doing if we weren’t living under the current restrictions,” she added.

It is almost a week since the latest regional restrictions came into force across Scotland and they are due to be reviewed on Tuesday.

Prof Bauld said there was evidence showing that the number of contacts people are reporting to Test and Protect is reducing, as they comply with restrictions.

She said people’s contacts had reduced by 14% in the last two weeks and by 30% since August.

But she believes it is unlikely that the restrictions will change much when they come under review this week.

“My own personal view is that we need a little bit longer to see the full effects of the current system and so I’d be very surprised if we saw much movement at the moment,” she said.

The latest Scottish government statistics also show:

US election: Johnson vows to defend common values with Joe Biden

Boris Johnson has said there is “more that unites than divides” him and Joe Biden as he pledged to work together to defend “common values and interests”.

The UK prime minister told broadcasters he and the US president-elect shared a belief in democracy, human rights, free speech and free trade.

He also welcomed the “real prospect” of the US now showing “global leadership” on climate change.

Mr Biden’s allies have meanwhile sought to smooth over Brexit differences.

Senator Chris Coons, who is tipped to become secretary of state in the Biden administration, said the election was an opportunity “to jump start a new chapter” in transatlantic relations.

Asked about Mr Biden’s opposition to Brexit when he was Barack Obama’s vice-president and his subsequent criticism of Mr Johnson, he said he expected there to be some “reconsideration of whatever comments may have been made about the moment of Brexit” in the coming weeks and months.

Following Mr Biden’s victory, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the UK would “listen carefully” to US concerns about the impact of the UK’s departure from the EU on stability on the island of Ireland and the Good Friday Agreement.

Mr Biden has vowed to unify the US after he was declared the winner of the presidential election on Saturday.

The Republican incumbent, President Donald Trump, who is a strong supporter of Brexit, has yet to concede defeat and is taking legal action in a number of states, alleging voting irregularities.

Mr Raab told the BBC’s Andrew Marr that the UK had always had faith in the integrity of the US electoral system to produce a “clear” outcome, which he said it had now done.

“We want to avoid getting sucked into domestic American politics but it is very clear now, in our view, that there is a definitive result,” he said.

He said the British embassy in Washington had been in touch with the Biden campaign and he believed the president-elect and Mr Johnson, who have never met before, would speak in “due course”.

Mr Johnson used his interview to reaffirm the importance of the relationship between the two countries, saying he and the new president had “crucial stuff” to get on with.

“The United States is our closest and most important ally, and that has been the case president after president, prime minister after prime minister – it won’t change,” he said.

“I think there is far more that unites the government of this country and governments in Washington at any time and any stage than divides us.

“We have common values, we have common interests, we have common global perspective. There is a huge amount of work we need to do together to protect those values.”

Mr Johnson signalled that he hoped Mr Biden’s victory would mark a big shift in US policy on climate change, Mr Trump having taken the country out of the Paris Climate Accord.

“I think now with President Biden in the White House in Washington we have the real prospect of American global leadership in tackling climate change,” he said.

The UK and US are currently seeking to negotiate a bilateral trade agreement, against a backdrop of historic tensions with senior Democrats in Congress over Brexit and its impact on Northern Ireland.

Mr Biden has warned that the 1998 Good Friday Agreement must “not be a casualty” of Brexit and expressed concerns about the UK government’s attempt to pass legislation that would give it the power to override aspects of the EU Withdrawal Agreement with regard to Northern Ireland.

The election of Joe Biden leaves Boris Johnson facing a substantial diplomatic repair job. The two men have never met.

Last December the president-elect described the prime minister as a “physical and emotional clone” of Donald Trump.

There are people around Mr Biden who remember bitterly how Mr Johnson once suggested President Obama harboured anti-British sentiment because of his part-Kenyan ancestry.

Mr Biden and his team think Brexit is an historic mistake. They would not want Britain to leave the EU without a trade deal, particularly if it involved breaking commitments made in the Northern Ireland protocol.

Mr Johnson has expressed his belief that the UK will be able to secure mutually beneficial trade agreements with both the US and the EU, its two largest partners.

But he has also signalled that he will now bow to pressure from the EU to re-write the Internal Market Bill, which is due to be voted on in the Lords on Monday, to take out controversial clauses

“The whole point of the Internal Market Bill… is to protect and uphold the Good Friday Agreement and the peace process in Northern Ireland,” he said.

“That is one of the things that we’re united on with our friends in the White House.”

Asked about Mr Trump’s continued claims that he had won the election, the foreign secretary said the UK and other foreign countries must be careful not to be seen to be seeking to interfere in the election or its aftermath.

He added: “I am sure Donald Trump and his team will reflect on where they lie.”

Covid case rise plateauing as Wales firebreak lockdown nears end

Wales is starting to see a “levelling off” of Covid-19 case rates, the country’s health minister has said on the final day of its 17-day lockdown.

Vaughan Gething also said mass testing, as being trialled in Liverpool, will be considered in Wales’ high case rate areas like Merthyr and the valleys.

He said the full impact of the lockdown would not be seen for two weeks yet.

Opposition parties have suggested high case rate areas should have stricter local rules.

Wales’ lockdown – which the Welsh Government said would help stop the health service in Wales becoming “overwhelmed” – ends on Monday just a few days after England’s four-week lockdown started.

The number of patients in Welsh hospitals with coronavirus is now the highest since the height of the pandemic in April.

Latest NHS Wales figures show 1,344 people are being treated in hospital for Covid-19 while 54 of the 163 critical care patients have the virus – with the intensive care occupancy rate beyond Wales’ usual 152-bed capacity.

Mr Gething warned cancer, heart and stroke “treatments” could be affected if Covid infection rates surge again.

But he said: “We think we’re starting to see a plateauing, a levelling off, in the rates of coronavirus across the country.

“It’s still at a high rate which means that there’s still a reservoir of coronavirus within our communities.”

The Welsh Conservatives want “local measures” to help slow down Covid-19 cases in communities to avoid “such draconian measures as a firebreak lockdown or just a straight lockdown”.

“We would also then have targeted testing in areas where we know there’s high infection rates to suppress the virus,” their health spokesperson Andrew RT Davies told BBC Radio Wales.

And Plaid Cymru said the Welsh Government should show it “has a plan in place” to deal with areas of high infection rates.

“I doubt whether it is right to treat those areas in the same way as we treat some of the areas with very low incidence,” said the party’s health spokesperson Rhun ap Iorwerth.

But Mr Gething said: “If we breach trust with the public and extend the end of the firebreak, having been clear it would come to an end, I don’t think people would be prepared to trust the government again and go along with what we want people to do.”

He thanked the people of Wales for their sacrifice during the lockdown, saying: “We have seen significant reductions in movement, we’re confident there’s been a reduction in household contact and all of those things will make a difference.

“What I can’t do is rule out what we will have to do in the future because that is down to the choices we make.”

While pubs, bars and restaurants, gyms, and other non-essential businesses will be allowed to reopen on Monday, Mr Gething urged people to reduce contact and time spent with people outside their household bubble.

“We don’t want to throw away what we think we have gained in the firebreak,” said Mr Gething.

“If we go back to the way the things were before the firebreak, we’d have thrown away all of the sacrifice put together to make the firebreak successful and that would be heart-breaking for so many people who have done the right thing.”

Mr Gething warned that if infections surge again “hospitals will become full” then elective surgeries and other “non-Covid care” which was relatively unaffected during this latest lockdown, may be hit.

“It will mean people will be treated in an undignified way, it’s about saving as many lives as possible,” he said.

“It’s to make sure the NHS isn’t overwhelmed because, if that happens, then non-Covid care like cancer care, heart, stroke and all of those other treatments will be affected.”

Wales has seen almost 7,000 coronavirus cases in the last seven days and the death toll is now more than 2,000 people since the pandemic began.

While Office for National Statistics data suggests Covid-19 cases are “stabilising” across Wales and the UK, Mr Gething has said the effectiveness of the lockdown may not be known for another few weeks.

“The infection rates we see reported today reflect behaviour from two to three weeks ago,” he said.

“That’s how long it takes to feed through. We think we will see a dip in the next two to three weeks but we’re cautious as we need to see what the evidence is.”

Merthyr Tydfil, Rhondda Cynon Taf and Blaenau Gwent have some of the worst Covid-19 infection rates in the UK and, amid calls from Plaid Cymru for widespread testing in high case rate areas, Mr Gething says the Welsh Government was “considering” mass testing.

“Liverpool is a test pilot for the UK,” he said.

“We are looking at what might be possible here in Wales to go alongside how we can use our testing resources here.”

Mr Gething said the Welsh Government would “formally review” the coronavirus data from across Wales in two weeks’ time.

The people of Wales have been warned to expect another lockdown in the new year as First Minister Mark Drakeford has said there was a “path through to Christmas” without needing another “firebreak”.

“If we avoid contact with other people and we travel only when we need to, work from home wherever we can, we will build on what has been achieved here over the last 17 days,” Mark Drakeford told Sky News.

“That will give us a path through to Christmas without needing to go back into this extraordinary period of restriction.”

Mr Drakeford has called on the UK government to make good on its promise for the four nations to meet this week and discuss a single approach to “pool ideas, plan together and have a common approach to the Christmas period”.

“The restrictions people have had to live with are incredibly difficult and demanding, and everybody is tired and fatigued of coronavirus,” he said.

“If we can offer respite over Christmas that is what we would want to do.”

Covid-19: Monday executive meeting to look at current restrictions

The executive will on Monday discuss easing some Covid-19 restrictions, Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill has said.

Current measures are due to end on Friday and the executive has been advised pubs and restaurants should remain closed for another two weeks.

Michelle O’Neill told the BBC’s Sunday Politics there could be some “flexibility” for easing restrictions.

She said any decisions would be taken in a “graduated” manner.

Speaking on Thursday, First Minister Arlene Foster said the restrictions imposed on 16 October had helped bring the R-rate – or reproduction number – down to 0.7.

However, Sinn Féin vice-president Ms O’Neill said that number did not take into account the reopening of schools last week, and that the impact of that may not be known until next week.

She said the executive would not keep any measure in place “longer than necessary” and they were looking at reopening some areas.

She said: “For example, close contact services, is there space for us to open those things up again from next Friday, in a very regulated way of course, on an appointment by appointment basis, a one in one out basis?” she said.

“The restrictions very much focus on the hospitality sector right now so we’re looking at that wide family.

“Across hospitality, you’ve everything from a cafe or a coffee shop, right through to a nightclub and they’re two very different scenarios.

“We’re looking at whether there is any space or scope there to lift some of those things in a graduated way over the course of the next number of weeks.”

Hospitality business have called for clarity as soon as possible, but the deputy first minister said the sale of alcohol was a factor to consider in coming to a decision.

She said: “We have to be very mindful of the fact that perhaps people’s defences come down when there is alcohol taken.

“So what we’re looking at is are there ways that we can open things up perhaps without alcohol?

“If we can find a way to get ourselves into the new year with the restrictions that we bring in now then that’s the prize that we’re going for here.

“We don’t want to have to intervene again before Christmas, we want to be able to allow some flexibility to allow people to move around as much as possible, to allow as much of our economy to open up as possible.”

A Department of Health proposal, seen by BBC News NI, indicates that a two-week extension of the restrictions on hospitality until the end of November could mean the possibility of avoiding further interventions before Christmas.

Nichola Mallon has voiced her support for extending the current restrictions for another fortnight.

On Saturday, there were 15 further coronavirus-related deaths reported by the Department of Health, with 12 of those coming in the previous 24-hour period.

It brings the total number of deaths reported by the department to 774.

There were also an additional 528 cases of coronavirus confirmed.

Health trusts across Northern Ireland have reported services coming under pressure.

The full interview with Michelle O’Neill will be broadcast on Sunday Politics at 15:00 GMT on BBC One Northern Ireland.

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