Northern Ireland news

Queues in Belfast as recycling centres open

 East Belfast resident Ken Mills first in the queue for Palmerston Recycling Centre, Belfast, after arriving at 0700, as recycling centres across Northern Ireland re-open with the easing of some coronavirus lockdown restrictions.
Rebecca Black and David Young, PA

Recycling centres across Northern Ireland saw a busy reopening on Monday.

Queues started at the Palmerston Road facility in east Belfast at 7am and 7.50am at Blackstaff Way in the west of the city before petering out.

However, recycling centres in Bangor and Newtownards remained busy throughout the day, with signs warning motorists of 30 minute waits in place.

Ards and North Down Borough Council took to social media to urge residents to consider delaying their visit to later in the week.

Read more: Watch as KFC reopening sparks mile-long queue in Belfast

Gary Stoops told the PA news agency that he had been waiting for more than an hour and 20 minutes at the Bangor facility.

"We've a lot of rubbish to offload after lockdown, we have redecorated a room and cleared out a room," he said.

"We've travelled about 300-400 yards in an hour and 20 minutes in the queue."

He added: "We're off this week on holiday so we thought we'd come down, but I can't believe there are so many people off, whether furloughed or whatever."

At Palmerston, Ken Mills was first in line as a queue of cars stretched along the Holywood Road in the east of the city.

He said he had arrived at 7am, expecting it to be busy.

Motorists could be seen reading newspapers in their stationary cars as they waited for the gates to re-open at 9am.

"I got up this morning, thinking: 'I'll get on the ball here, because I knew it was going to be busy'," Mr Mills said.

"So I've had a two-hour wait, but I don't mind because I am getting rid of a lot of stuff that has been cluttering the garage.

"It wasn't so much from a clear-out - my daughter moved house and has been buying a lot of furniture and stuff which all comes in a lot of cardboard. She has been storing it in my garage so I had the job of getting rid of it."

At Blackstaff Way, James Kelly was first in the queue, and said he had arrived at around 7.50am.

"I've got bits and pieces, clothes, electricals, a bit of wood, a bit of metal," he said.

"We were just getting rid of stuff that had built up."

Mr Kelly said he thinks the recycling centres in the city should have been opened earlier.

"I went to another site in Derriaghy to dump my wood a couple of days ago but they wouldn't let me in because I had no ID to show I was from the area. I thought that was ridiculous too, they should let anyone in."

Angling is also allowed again while marriage ceremonies involving someone with a terminal illness can take place.

The relaxations came into effect as it was announced that coronavirus testing is to be offered to all care home residents and staff in the region.

The move by Health Minister Robin Swann comes after mounting calls for universal testing in homes.

Almost half (45%) of Covid-19 related deaths in the region are occurring in care homes, the most recent figures from the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) have shown.

Stormont’s leaders are expected to announce a series of other lockdown relaxations on Monday afternoon, with the region set to formally move to phase one of its five-step exit plan.

Outdoor gatherings of four to six people from outside the same household are expected to be given the go-ahead later, as is the reopening of churches for solitary prayer and drive-in services.

Golf and tennis could also be given the green light in the coming week.

The moves will all depend on the latest scientific and medical evidence.

The coronavirus death toll recorded by Stormont’s Department of Health rose to 476 on Sunday after a further three fatalities were announced.

That total primarily encapsulates deaths in hospitals, so the true toll in the region will be larger, once fatalities registered in the community are factored in.

A technical issue with the department’s reporting system meant the latest numbers of confirmed Covid-19 cases were not announced on Sunday along with the fatalities.

On Saturday, the total of confirmed positive results in the region stood at 4,357.

A meeting of the Stormont executive will convene at noon as ministers discuss the latest moves out of lockdown.

First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill are expected to make an announcement later in the afternoon.

They were informed by their chief scientific and medical advisers on Thursday that it was now appropriate to move to phase one of the plan.

Ministers were told that the Covid-19 infection rate in region (R0) was below 0.7.

The R0, which is the number of people an infected person transmits the disease to, is a crucial consideration in any decision to ease restrictions.

An R0 below one means the virus’s prevalence is gradually decreasing, while a number above one would result in exponential growth.

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