'We do not take this step lightly': Pubs and schools to close as NI increase restrictions

'We do not take this step lightly': Pubs and schools to close as NI increase restrictions

Pubs and restaurants in Northern Ireland will close for four weeks.

Pubs and restaurants in Northern Ireland will close for four weeks, with the exception of takeaways and deliveries, while schools will shut for two weeks over the half-term Halloween break in a bid to slow the spread of coronavirus, First Minister Arlene Foster said.

The new measures will be put in place on Friday for a period of four weeks.

The decision was made due to what Ms Foster described as "the very worrying" increase in Covid-19 cases and hospitalisations.

"We all have a role to break this chain, and it’s important that we all understand this."

She added: "Limiting our social contacts will play a role in breaking the chain.

"We have already asked everyone to assist with this by not gathering in domestic settings and that has been taken forward in regulations. We also have local restrictions in Derry City and Strabane Council.

"But the numbers have continued to rise, the doubling rate is of grave concern, and hospitalisations are on the increase. This is deeply troubling and more steps are now urgently needed."

The measures announced today include:

  • Maintenance of current household restrictions - no mixing of households in private dwellings, with exceptions including those joined in social bubbles 
  • Gatherings in the gardens of private dwellings limited to six people from no more than two households 
  • Social bubbles limited to a maximum of 10 people from two households 
  • Work from home unless unable to do so 
  • Universities and further education to undertake distance learning to the maximum extent possible, only essential face-to-face learning where necessary and unavoidable 
  • Hospitality sector closed except deliveries and takeaways for food, closing time remains 11pm 
  • Retail remains open No indoor sport or organised contact sport involving household mixing other than at elite level 
  • No mass events involving more than 15 people (except for allowed outdoor sporting events where the relevant number for that will continue to apply) 
  • Places of worship remain open with mandatory face coverings when entering and exiting 
  • Weddings and civil partnerships limited to 25 people with no receptions from Monday, October 19 
  • Funerals and committals limited to 25 people with no pre- or post-funeral gatherings 
  • Off licenses and supermarkets will not be permitted to sell alcohol after 8pm 
  • No unnecessary travel 

The First Minister said the Executive will engage with sectors and provide supports "as a matter of priority".

The midterm break for schools has been extended from October 19 to October 30. Schools will reopen on Monday, November 2.

"We fully appreciate that 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."

Ms Foster said she hoped the measures would lower transmission rates and encourage every person to take stock and go back to the social distancing messaging.

"Small acts can have large and important contributions to managing Covid 19.

"Wash your hands, practice social distancing, wear face coverings.

"Small acts but so vitally important."

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