| 11°C Dublin

Schools, pubs and restaurants closed in North as cases surge

Close

Arlene Foster unveiled curbs

Arlene Foster unveiled curbs

Arlene Foster unveiled curbs

The North is to enter a period of intensified coronavirus restrictions after the Stormont executive announced closures of schools, pubs and restaurants from Friday.

Pubs and restaurants will close for four weeks, with the exception of takeaways and deliveries, while schools will close on Monday for two weeks at mid-term instead of one.

A record 1,217 new cases were confirmed in the Northern yesterday, taking the total to 23,115.

Spiralling

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

Shops will remain open as will gyms for individual training. Churches will remain open. It is understood a 25-person limit will be placed on funerals and weddings, but wedding receptions are prohibited.

People should work from home unless unable to do so, and are urged not to take unnecessary journeys.

Indoor sporting activities are not allowed and outdoor contact sports will be limited to elite athletes. Off-licences will have to shut at 8pm.

First minister Arlene Foster announced the restrictions at a special sitting of the Assembly yesterday. She said the rising Covid-19 figures in Northern Ireland were of "grave concern".

"We fully appreciate that this will be difficult and worrying news for a lot of people," she told MLAs. "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."

Mrs Foster said the executive hoped the restrictions would have two effects.

"First, on the Covid transmission rates which must be turned down now, or we will be in a very difficult place very soon," she said. "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."

Mrs Foster insisted the restrictions would not last any longer than four weeks.

Current restrictions on household mixing remain. These mean no mixing of households in private dwellings with some exceptions including ones for those in social bubbles..

The majority of the measures will come into force on Friday.