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Derry and Strabane put under new Covid-19 restrictions

Northern Ireland’s north west region has one of the highest infection levels in the UK.

Image: PA

PUBS AND RESTAURANTS in Northern Ireland’s north west faces tough new restrictions to curb soaring rates of coronavirus spread, Stormont ministers said.

The city of Derry and nearby town of Strabane together have one of the highest levels in the UK – 323 infected per 100,000 over the last seven days.

Hospitality businesses are to be confined to takeaway, delivery and outdoor dining.

People will be urged to limit their use of public transport and work from home if possible, with all “unnecessary travel” within or to and from the Derry City and Strabane council area to be avoided.

Northern Ireland’s First Minister Arlene Foster said: “I recognise that this news will come as a hammer blow to businesses in the north west.”

Stormont ministers agreed extra measures during a meeting today.

embedded255778720 Bishops Gate Hotel in Londonderry which has temporarily closed after staff tested positive for the virus. Source: Liam McBurney/PA

‘Devastating blow’

Curbs have also been imposed in neighbouring county Donegal after the rapid advance of the virus over recent weeks.

Colin Neill, chief executive of pubs and restaurants group Hospitality Ulster, said it was a devastating blow.

“The imposing of further restrictions on top of tight legally enforceable rules will mean closure for many as they won’t be able to meet the requirement, such as outside space, and with the weather getting colder, this will no longer be viable.

“Donegal placed at Level 3 status means that this entire north west area will effectively limp along.”

Today Stormont’s Department of Health announced a further 259 cases of Covid-19. Two further deaths have been recorded.

Foyle MP Colum Eastwood, who represents the Derry area, said: “If we’re honest, the cautious attitude we all took at the start has slipped – people aren’t always wearing face masks in shops, unnecessary journeys have become routine again and compliance is not as good as it should be.

The hard truth is that unless people change their behaviour immediately, we’re going to lose more friends, neighbours and family members.

He called for more official support for businesses in the area.

“These restrictions will be challenging. People in our communities are naturally sociable, entrepreneurial and active.

But they are absolutely necessary to relieve pressure on our health service and protect each other.

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“Derry and Strabane has shown that it can step up when needed. It is now needed again and I know that people will do all that they can.”

Households across Northern Ireland have been barred from mixing indoors in private homes.

Previously, extra measures were taken in Belfast and Ballymena in Co Antrim, after increases in infections.

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