Coronavirus: Northern Ireland faces circuit breaker lockdown month


Northern Ireland will be the first UK nation to be hit with circuit-breaker second lockdown measures after executive ministers agreed to close schools, pubs and restaurants.

Only takeaways will be allowed from pubs and restaurants as they close their doors to dine-ins for four weeks under the new rules, set to be formally announced on Wednesday.

Schools will close for two weeks, one of which will cover the half-term Halloween break. 

It is understood that shops will remain open – as will churches and gyms for individual training. 

While the moves do not amount to a full scale lockdown similar to that imposed during the first wave of the virus, they mark a significant ramping up in Northern Ireland’s response to spiraling infection rates. 

Some 863 cases were reported in Northern Ireland yesterday – bringing the total to 21,898 – along with seven new deaths.

In coronavirus news across the UK: 

  • London Mayor Sadiq Khan warned it is ‘inevitable’ London will be plunged into a Tier Two lockdown this week;
  • A poll found Britons do not believe the Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s ‘Three Tier’ lockdown goes far enough;
  • Tory curfew rebels made a symbolic protest against the 10pm pub closure rule but were unable to prevent it;
  • Health minister Helen Whately said care home residents’ families will be treated as key workers with weekly tests;
  • Nicola Sturgeon trolled the PM over his Sage spat, saying her ‘circuit breaker’ is ‘rooted in scientific advice’;
  • Bolton West Conservative MP Chris Green quit as a parliamentary private secretary over the new lockdown.

Northern Ireland will be the first UK nation to be hit with circuit-breaker second lockdown measures after executive ministers agreed to closures of schools, pubs and restaurants. Pictured: First Minister Arlene Foster

Some 863 cases were reported in Northern Ireland yesterday - bringing the total to 21,898 - along with seven new deaths

Some 863 cases were reported in Northern Ireland yesterday – bringing the total to 21,898 – along with seven new deaths

In the country’s worst-hit area, just under 1 per cent of the population tested positive in the last seven days alone – giving it an infection rate of 970 per 100,000.

It is the highest rolling seven-day rate of new Covid-19 cases UK-wide with Nottingham coming in second at 880.4 cases per 100,000.

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

A formal announcement is expected to be made during a special sitting of the Assembly in Belfast later on Wednesday.

It is expected that most sporting activities will be limited to elite athletes for the four weeks.

The current restrictions on household mixing are expected to remain as they are.

That means no mixing of households in private dwellings – with some exceptions including those joined in social bubbles – and gatherings in the gardens of private dwellings limited to six people from no more than two households.

While the moves do not amount to a full scale lockdown similar to that imposed during the first wave of the virus, they mark a significant ramping up in Northern Ireland's response to spiraling infection rates. Pictured: Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson

While the moves do not amount to a full scale lockdown similar to that imposed during the first wave of the virus, they mark a significant ramping up in Northern Ireland’s response to spiraling infection rates. Pictured: Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson

It is anticipated that closures of hospitality outlets will come into force on Friday October 16. The other measures would be rolled out from Monday October 19.

After the late night executive meeting concluded, deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill tweeted: ‘The Exec has given painstaking consideration to next steps.

‘We know this is hard and that people will be worried about their livelihoods, but we will do everything we possibly can to make sure there are protections in place for businesses, workers and families.’

Earlier, during a break from the at times strained discussions, First Minister Arlene Foster vowed to ‘stand by’ any businesses and individuals impacted by any new measures.

The DUP leader, who will make the announcement in the Assembly, insisted it was not an option to ‘close the country down’.

‘For those who will be impacted by any restrictions that we agree, we will stand with you, and we will help you and financially support you as best we can,’ she said.

Mrs Foster said it was ‘critical’ that ‘long term’ school closures were avoided.

A further seven people died after testing positive for 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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