Northern Ireland news


Breaching mixing guidelines at New Year's Eve house parties will increase Omicron spread, revellers warned

New year's revellers have been warned to 'think before you act' before hosting or attending house parties amid an increase in the Omicron variant of Covid-19
Paul Ainsworth

PEOPLE planning New Year's Eve celebrations have been urged to "think before you act" in hosting or attending house parties due to the highly transmissible nature of Omicron.

The warning comes as Stormont confirmed the latest Covid-19 variant now accounts for more than 90 per cent of all cases of the virus in the north.

With nightclubs closed but pubs remaining open for table service, revellers have been warned not to breach guidelines, strongly recommending social mixing be reduced to three households only.

Deputy chair of the British Medical Association's NI committee of GPs, Dr Frances O'Hagan, said breaching the rules will dramatically increase the likelihood of Covid transmission.

"The limit is there to keep us all safe, as if you put large numbers of people in a confined space then you increase the risk of Covid spread, especially with Omicron," Dr O'Hagan told the Irish News.

"My advice for New Year's Eve, or indeed any other night, is to think before you act.

"I'm not saying don't socialise, I'm saying please do it wisely and safely by following the rules, taking lateral flow tests (LFTs), and wearing face coverings where necessary.

"Attending large gatherings where lots of people from different households mix will give the virus a chance to spread dramatically. It's simple maths; one-in-six people are thought to have Omicron, and if 12 people are gathered in a confined space such as a house party, then at least two people will have the virus and will spread it."

The warning came as Stormont ministers met virtually yesterday.

There have no change to current restrictions but the self-isolation period for those who test positive for Covid has been reduced from 10 days to seven if negative LFTs prove negative on days six and seven.

First minister Paul Givan said in a tweet that no further restrictions would be implemented, adding: "We will continue to assess the data as more information emerges and meet again on 6th January."

New figures yesterday show another 4,701 new cases and another three deaths linked to Covid.

Pressure on the healthcare system was also evident by the NI Ambulance Service urging people to make their own way to hospital "if clinically appropriate".

A spokesperson said the service was "extremely busy", adding: "If you need to call 999, do not hesitate. We will prioritise calls to provide the quickest response to the most seriously ill or injured.

"If clinically appropriate, please consider making your own way to hospital.."

Deputy first minister Michelle O'Neill said the north was in a "difficult period" adding: "We know that this variant is highly transmissible so it's really, really important that everyone takes steps to minimise the risk of transmission."

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