Covid-19: Northern Ireland shuts schools, imposing UK's tightest coronavirus restrictions

Clay Curtis
October 16, 2020

Four Covid-19 linked deaths and 763 new cases of the virus were reported today.

Churches will also remain open, with a 25-person limit on funerals and weddings.

Close contact services, such as hairdressers and beauticians, must stop.

"We've gone from an approach that was about "whatever it takes to get the country through this" to a penny-pinching approach to this pandemic where the cost will fall very much on people in the real world whose businesses are already close to the brink, " he said in a virtual news conference.

Services that deliver health interventions and therapeutics will be allowed to continue.

"The Exec has given painstaking consideration to next steps", deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill tweeted.

"I say that because not only do I have to look at the health outcomes in these issues, but of course the economic outcomes, the societal outcomes, the education of our young people... and therefore I think that what we came forward with was an action plan which has been blended to try and deal with all of those issues, not for one minute taking away from the huge challenge that lies in front of us all in relation to Covid-19".

"First, on the Covid transmission rates which must be turned down now, or we will be in a very hard place very soon indeed", she said.

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Her Sinn Fein colleague and Stormont finance minister Conor Murphy said the escalating infection rates leave Northern Ireland facing a "hugely worrying situation" that requires "prompt action".

The current restrictions on household mixing are to remain.

Earlier, Mrs Foster also vowed to support businesses and individuals affected by the new measures, saying: "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".

Under the changes, households will only be able to mix with others in their social bubbles with gatherings limited to gardens of private dwellings with a maximum of six people from any two households.

It is the largest daily rise in cases in the region since an extended testing regime was introduced. The total number of cases now stands at 23,115.

The Derry and Strabane Council area, which has been experiencing the highest infection rate in the United Kingdom and Ireland, now has a seven-day average of 992 cases per 100,000 people.

There are now 164 patients in hospitals with Covid-19, including 24 in intensive care.

The area is already subject to additional localised restrictions.

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