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The measures were announced by Arlene Foster and Michelle O'Neill this evening.
The measures were announced by Arlene Foster and Michelle O'Neill this evening.
Image: Niall Carson/PA Images

North introduces limits on household indoor gatherings to tackle Covid-19 spike

The new measures were announced this evening by the First and Deputy First Ministers.
Sep 21st 2020, 5:27 PM 29,887 14

Updated Sep 21st 2020, 5:27 PM

EXTRA RESTRICTIONS ON social gatherings are to be imposed across Northern Ireland. 

The new measures, announced in response to a rising number of Covid-19 cases, were confirmed this evening by First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill. 

Under the new rules, there will be no mixing of two households indoors except for single-person household bubbles – where two households amalgamate to support adults living alone or single parents with children. Some other exemptions also apply. 

No more than six people from two households can meet in private gardens.

Foster said: “It is in an environment where we feel safe and relaxed that we drop our guard.

“The mixing of households indoors provides one of the best opportunities for the spread of the virus.”

The level of Covid-19 varies across the Northern Ireland, but hotspots have emerged in several locations in recent days. 

Earlier today, both Foster and O’Neill spoke to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson to discuss the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Today, 125 new cases of the virus were confirmed in Northern Ireland – bringing the total number to 9,466. 

Under the new measures, pubs serving food and restaurants will remain open. Pubs which do not serve food will still open on Wednesday.

Both leaders stressed how important the next few weeks would be in stopping the spread of the virus. 

“Doing nothing was not an option but neither is returning to full lockdown,” Foster said.

“These are limited restrictions which I hope by taking action at this early stage means we can prevent the need for more draconian measures.”

Between two and four per cent of tests are now positive and show increased community transmission, Stormont’s chief scientific adviser Professor Ian Young said.

The reproductive rate of the virus has risen to 1.4 and in some local districts would be about two.

Previously the limitations were applied to greater Belfast and Ballymena in Antrim.

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Earlier, the UK Chief Medical Officer warned that the UK could see 50,000 new cases of Covid-19 a day by next month if no action is taken. 

Lockdown

Speaking at a briefing this evening, Foster stressed that this is not a return to “lockdown”. 

O’Neill said people were “fed up and tired” with Covid-19 but it posed a real threat and they had the opportunity to prevent an even more challenging situation this winter.

“Covid-19 has been allowed to get a foothold in our community and we need to take action now.

“This is a fightback – the months ahead will be difficult.”

With reporting from Dominic McGrath

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