Watch: Coronavirus restrictions extended across NI

First Minister Arlene Foster and deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill hold a press conference, alongside Northern Ireland's Chief Scientific Advisor Professor Ian Young.
First Minister Arlene Foster and deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill hold a press conference, alongside Chief Scientific Advisor Professor Ian Young. Credit: PA

Coronavirus restrictions previously in place for certain postcode areas of Northern Ireland are to be extended across the region from 6pm on Tuesday.

The announcement by First Minister Arlene Foster and deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill comes amid rising numbers of cases.

An unscheduled meeting of the Stormont Executive was called in response to rising Covid-19 infection rates.

Ministers met at 3.30pm on Monday to consider further restrictions, before they were confirmed at the afternoon press briefing.

However, Mrs Foster insisted: “This is not returning to lockdown.

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

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

According to Chief Scientific Advisor Professor Ian Young, the reproductive rate of the virus has risen to 1.4 and in some local districts would be about two.

So-called wet pubs which do not serve food will still be allowed to open on Wednesday as scheduled.

However, industry body Hospitality Ulster is expecting further restrictions to be imposed on all licensed premises, which could include early closing, further limits on seating arrangements, and a ban on live music.

Addressing the reopening of pubs while mixing between households is not allowed, Mrs Foster said the NI Executive was working on the basis of advice that showed the virus was more likely to be spread in homes where people where more relaxed about social distancing and sanitising.

“It is in an environment where we feel safe and relaxed that we drop our guard,” she said.

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

Ms O’Neill added that they knew 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,” she said.

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

The First and deputy First Ministers also addressed songs written by prominent Belfast musician Sir Van Morrison to protest over coronavirus restrictions, saying they were “unhelpful” .

Meanwhile, the Chief Medical Officers of Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and England have said in a joint statement that all four nations of the UK should move to Level 4 – which notes that a Covid-19 epidemic is in general circulation and transmission is high or rising exponentially.

“If we are to avoid significant excess deaths and exceptional pressure in the NHS and other health services over the autumn and winter, everyone has to follow the social distancing guidance, wear face coverings correctly and wash their hands regularly,” they said.

“We know this will be concerning news for many people - please follow the rules, look after each other, and together we will get through this.”

Latest Covid-19 stats

A total of 1,014 people have tested positive for Covid-19 in Northern Ireland in the last seven days, with 125 of them in the last 24-hour reporting period.

According to the latest Department of Health data, there have been 264 positive test results in Belfast in the last seven days.

Other areas where figures are high include Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon (155), Newry Mourne and Down (139), and Derry City and Strabane (121).

There have been no new deaths in the last 24-hour reporting period.

Thirty-three people with Covid-19 are in hospital – the highest figure in months.

Five of them are being treated in intensive care and three are on ventilators.

There are currently 30 confirmed outbreaks in care homes and a further 12 suspected outbreaks.

Meanwhile, Health Minister Robin Swann has said there is now a greater emphasis on enforcing coronavirus regulations in the Holyland area of Belfast where concerns have been raised over breaches, including parties and other anti-social behaviour.

Fifty-five Covid notices were issued overnight – 31 in one house alone.

Coronavirus restrictions

You cannot:

  • allow people you do not live with into your home, unless they’re in your support bubble

  • allow more than six people to gather in your garden, from more than two households

You can:

  • fulfil caring responsibilities, including childcare

  • travel in and out of the affected area, for example to go to work, but it is recommended that you should avoid unnecessary travel

  • attend a hospital appointment, dental services, opticians, audiology services, chiropody, chiropractors, osteopaths and other medical or health services

  • fulfil any legal obligations