Northern Ireland news

Localised coronavirus restrictions imposed in Belfast and parts of Co Antrim

First Minister Arlene Foster (left) and Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill during the daily media broadcast at Parliament Buildings, Stormont. Picture by Kelvin Boyes/Press Eye/PA Wire

LOCALISED coronavirus restrictions have been imposed in Belfast and parts of Co Antrim amid an increase in the number of positive cases of the virus.

Ballymena, the area covered by Belfast City Council and the post codes BT28 and BT29, which include Lisburn, Glenavy and Crumlin, are set to be placed under new Covid-19 measures for a minimum of two weeks.

Under the localised measures, members from two or more households will not be able to meet in private dwellings, with a number of limited exceptions, including childcare provision and households that have formed a social bubble with another.

No more than six people, from no more than two households, will be permitted to meet in private gardens. People living in the areas are also advised not to travel outside the zones unless it is necessary.

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Confirmation of the new measures were announced by First Minister Arlene Foster and deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill during their first joint press conference together at Stormont for 73 days.

It also marks the first series of localised restrictions to be imposed in Northern Ireland since lockdown in March. The north currently has the UK's highest rate of Covid-19 cases per 100,000 people.

The decision to introduce the restrictions came after an Executive meeting yesterday, where ministers also decided that pubs that do not serve food can provisionally aim to reopen on September 21.

Pubs that do serve food were able to reopen at the start of July.

Ministers also gave the green light to soft play areas re-opening from Monday.

It came as one more coronavirus-related death was recorded in the Newry, Mourne and Down area, with 79 new cases.

There was a further 196 new cases of coronavirus confirmed in the Republic and no further deaths.

Speaking at last night's press conference, Mrs Foster urged people living in the affected areas to "please take action now and stop the spread of the virus".

"There is a creeping of the virus across Northern Ireland and we need people to work with us to stop that," she said.

Mrs Foster said in the areas impacted the case numbers were double or treble Northern Ireland's average.

She said there was a need to "push down on the rising curve of infection".

"It is evident that there are specific geographical regions which have concerning levels of community transmission," said Mrs Foster.

The DUP leader added: "At the moment, the villain is not business, where customers' behaviours are regulated.

"It is in the home, in our homes, it is the house party, it is the dinner party, it is the few people coming around for drinks or coffee.

"So complacency is our enemy and it cost lives and therefore today it is important that we say to you that compliance is all important."

Asked how the measures would be enforced, Mrs Foster said she "hoped people will comply". It was also revealed that a new ministerial-led group had been set up to consider issues around compliance and enforcement of the regulations.

Chief Scientific Adviser Professor Ian Young also told the press briefing that the majority of new cases being diagnosed are related to household gatherings or acquired in the community.

Ms O'Neill also urged people living in the affected areas to "avoid unnecessary travel outside the restricted zone".

She said hospitals and care homes in those areas would also be advised to limit visitors, with one family member being allowed to visit once a week.

She also said the situation would be under review.

"We may also have to add postcodes to this as the situation develops," she added.

The Executive also announced that from Saturday people arriving from Portugal (excluding Madeira and the Azores), Hungary, French Polynesia and Reunion will be required to self-isolate for 14 days, while Sweden will be added to the region's safe list from 4am on Saturday.

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