Extra covid-19 restrictions on social gatherings across NI to come into force

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First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill

By PA reporter

Extra restrictions on social gatherings are to be imposed across Northern Ireland from 18:00 today.

There will be no mixing of two households indoors except for single-person household bubbles and certain other exemptions.

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

First Minister Arlene Foster laid out the restrictions, alongside Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill, yesterday at Stormont.

The DUP leader 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.”

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

First Minister Mrs Foster said: “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.”

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.

Professor Young also appeared Monday's press conference.

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

Professor Young said: “The virus is everywhere and will spread everywhere, and hence our advice is that generalised restrictions are required.

“We believe this is a proportionate response to the increased number of cases, focusing on the settings where most cases seem to be acquired at present.”

He said it had been possible to put in safety measures at hospitality outlets which did not exist in private homes.

Pubs which do not serve food will open on Wednesday.

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said people were “fed up and tired” with Covid 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.”

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