The localised Covid-19 restrictions announced for parts of Northern Ireland have been made legally enforceable.
The restrictions were announced to help limit the virus’ spread in the Belfast area, Ballymena, BT28, BT29 and BT43.
Initially, it was reported that the restrictions would apply to areas within Belfast council, but an interactive map shows that they also apply to areas in greater Belfast.
BBC News NI has sought clarification from the Department of Health.
The map is available on the NI Direct website and will be updated weekly.
More postcodes can now be added or removed as the pattern of the spread changes.
The regulations apply to anyone living in the named areas.
They allow no more than six people to gather in a private garden from no more than two households and rule out any mixing of households in private dwellings, with some exceptions.
The exceptions are:
- Bubbling with one other household
- Caring responsibilities including childcare
- Building or maintenance work or the services of any trade or profession
- A business operating from home
- Supported living arrangements
- Visits required for legal or medical purposes
- A funeral
- A house move
- A marriage or civil partnerships where one partner is terminally ill
There’s also guidance on travel, which is not legally enforceable.
Health Minister Robin Swann said that the decision to introduce localised restrictions was “not taken lightly”.
“Keeping the population safe and healthy is my top priority and in order to limit the spread of Covid-19 we need to restrict contact between people, particularly within the restricted areas.”
In a briefing at Stormont, he said “there should be no complacency in other parts of Northern Ireland” and warned that the restrictions could be introduced elsewhere.
“Restrictions can and will be extended to other postcodes if that is required. I want to make it clear that I will not hesitate to make tighter restrictions if they are needed.”
He added that NI is “on a knife edge” and that “other ways could’ve been found to reduce contacts between people and they would have had their challenges too”.
When asked why people can meet in a pub or restaurant but not a house, Mr Swann replied that “contacts in public places can be managed and structured”.
“There are no easy answers to this situation we are facing.
“I don’t want to restrict anyone’s daily movements and I certainly do not want to go back to another lockdown but, by the same token, I’m not going to sit on my hands and hope for the best when our Covid-19 rates are rising rapidly.”