When schools shut in Northern Ireland over coronavirus it will be for at least 16 weeks, Arlene Foster has said.
The first minister was speaking after a meeting between senior ministers from the NI Executive and Irish government.
Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill repeated her call for NI schools to shut immediately, in line with the Republic of Ireland.
Leo Varadkar said the Northern Ireland Executive and Irish government shared the same objective in slowing the advance of coronavirus.
Speaking after the North South Ministerial Council in Armagh on Saturday, Mrs Foster said: “At some stage in the future, when we are advised on the medical evidence, they will have to close the schools.
“Children will be at home for quite a considerable period of time, given that when we do close the schools they will be closed for at least 16 weeks.
“Then of course you are into the summer period, so they will be off school for a very long time.”
Ms O’Neill said all parties in the executive agreed schools would have to close but it was a matter of timing.
She said: “In my opinion schools should close now. I think we need to be consistent across this island
“I think the fact that you can have two schools a mile apart and one school’s open and one school’s closed that’s a very confusing picture and a very confusing message for the public.”