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Northern Ireland: Schools to close for two weeks, pubs and restaurants to shut in four week 'circuit breaker' lockdown

Pubs and restaurants are set to close for all four weeks with schools closing for two.

Updated Oct 14th 2020, 10:45 AM

THE NORTHERN IRELAND Executive has agreed new restrictions to curb the spread of Covid-19, which include closures of schools, pubs and restaurants.

Pubs and restaurants will close for four weeks, with the exception of takeaways, from Friday.

From Monday schools will close for two weeks until 2 November, with one of these weeks covering the half-term Halloween break.

Universities are advised to deliver distance learning with only essential face-to-face learning.

Off licences and supermarkets will not be permitted to sell alcohol after 8pm.

Retail will stay open and gyms will also remain open but for individual training only. No indoor sport or organised contact sport involving household mixing will be allowed other than at elite level.

Wedding ceremonies and funerals will be limited to 25 people with no receptions or gatherings afterwards. 

Current restrictions on mixing of households remain in place, which means household are no longer allowed to mix indoors in private homes. No more than six people from two households can meet in a private garden.

Forming a ‘bubble’ is still allowed – this means a household can have close contact with one other household. This should now be limited to 10 people in total.

There are also exemptions to the private household restrictions for childcare, which will remain in place.

The moves do not amount to a full scale lockdown similar to that imposed during the first wave of the virus, but the measures nevertheless mark a significant ramping up of the administration’s response to spiralling infection rates.

First Minister Arlene Foster said these restrictions, other than the closure of schools, should apply for four weeks. 

The restrictions were agreed after a stop-start meeting of the Stormont executive that extended past midnight and into the early morning. 

Speaking to the Assembly this morning, First Minister Arlene Foster said the Executive appreciates this will be “difficult and worrying news” for a lot of people. 

“The Executive has taken this decision because it is necessary, and we discussed the impacts in great detail. We do not take this step lightly. We want these measures to have two impacts.

“First, on the Covid transmission rates which must be turned down now, or we will be in a very difficult place very soon indeed. Second, we believe it marks a point where everyone, each and every one of us, can take stock and go back to the social distancing messaging. That is vitally important.”

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Foster said any exiting from the restrictions will have to be done “most carefully”.

She said she hopes further support measures for those affected by the latest restrictions will be signed off by another meeting of ministers tomorrow.

‘Dangerous’

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland earlier, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said she agreed that schools in the North should close for two weeks and said the situation in the region is “grave” and “dangerous”. 

McDonald called for an all-Island approach to tackle Covid-19′s spread ahead of the Stormont Executive’s announcement this morning. “We need to take this in an orderly, thoughtful fashion,” she said. 

A further seven deaths with Covid-19 and another 863 cases were reported by the Department of Health on Tuesday.

Some 6,286 new positive cases of the virus have been detected in the last seven days, bringing the total number of cases in the region to 21,898.

As of Tuesday, there were 150 patients in hospitals with Covid-19, including 23 in intensive care.

The Derry and Strabane Council area has been experiencing the highest infection rate in the UK and Ireland, with a seven day average of 970 cases per 100,000 people.

The area is already subject to additional localised restrictions.

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