Northern Ireland news

Coronavirus: Cinemas and theatres closed and NW200 postponed

Riders taking part in the International North West 200 races last year. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin

CINEMAS, theatres and conference centres are closing and the North West 200 motorbike race has been postponed as the coronavirus outbreak continues.

The organisers of the race said it would postpone the May 10-16 race week, which attracts more than 100,000 spectators to the north coast every year, amid the ongoing health crisis.

"Today’s decision has been based upon the advice and guidance received. Our paramount desire is to act responsibly and do all we can to protect everyone from the threat posed by the virus," race organisers said in a statement.

"We enjoy the full support of loyal sponsors and stakeholders in making this decision but apologise for any inconvenience it has caused to them, our competitors, volunteers and race fans."

Belfast's Lyric Theatre announced yesterday it was closing its doors until further notice.

"This is the first time in the Lyric’s history that we’ve been forced to close our doors; even during the very darkest days of the Troubles the Lyric remained open," executive producer Jimmy Fay said.

"The closure of theatres and other cultural venues will have a very real and devastating impact on the theatre industry and arts community as a whole."

Cinema chains Omniplex, IMC and Odeon and independent cinemas including the Queen's Film Theatre and the Strand Arts Centre in east Belfast announced they were closing.

Four of Northern Ireland's biggest museums - the Ulster Museum, Ulster Folk Museum, Ulster Transport Museum and Ulster American Folk Park - closed yesterday,

A spokesman for National Museums NI said: "We've made this decision in the interests of the health and wellbeing of our community. Whilst the museums are temporarily closed, we will continue to conduct as much as possible of our work remotely and will seek alternative ways to provide access to the collections that we hold."

Following the closure of all leisure centres in Belfast, the city council announced that weddings due to be held at Belfast City Hall over the next week will be limited to eight people.

No weddings will be held at city hall from Monday March 23.

Events at the Ulster Hall and Waterfront Hall have also been called off and St George's Market is also closed.

Independent exercise studios, including several yoga and pilates studios across the city yesterday announced they would close. Belfast Pilates and Physiotherapy in east Belfast said all of its classes are being live-streamed online.

Several shops have also decided to close, including the Hollister and Vans outlets in Victoria Square and the Sketchers shop in Belfast.

Downpatrick and County Down Railway said it had suspended online sales for our planned Easter Eggspress.

Chairman Robert Gardiner said it hoped to reschedule an "alternative Easter" later in the year.

"As many of our volunteers would be in an at risk category we also have a duty of care to them to avoid potential exposure," he said.

"Indeed, as we expect volunteers to self-isolate, we would also find it very difficult to run train services at all during this period."

In Derry, plans to bring the Clipper Round the World yacht race to the city for a fifth time this summer have fallen victim to the Coronavirus.

More than 200,000 people attended Foyle Maritime Festival festival when the huge ocean-going yachts last visited the city in 2018.

However, organisers of the race, Clipper Ventures, announced yesterday that the last three legs of the race were cancelled with immediate effect.

Derry and Strabane mayor, Michaela Boyle said that while the news was disappointing, it was the right decision.

"With regard to the Foyle Maritime Festival celebrations planned for the summer, we will continue to review this event in view of news that Clipper will not be part of the festival this year and keep the public informed of any changes and updates," she said.

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