Coronavirus: NI Executive to consider further restrictions

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The executive will meet on Thursday to discuss the next steps

More restrictions could be approved on Thursday after the health minister said Northern Ireland was at a crossroads dealing with a dramatic rise in Covid-19 cases.

Robin Swann has said it is “inconceivable” ministers would not take action.

Every week now new restrictions are being introduced and that seems certain to continue today.

Robin Swann said he would recommend a number of options.

That raises the potential of more restrictions on hospitality, family interaction and travel distances.

A further 424 cases were announced on Wednesday – 139 of which were in the Derry and Strabane council area.

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The north west has seen a spike in coronavirus cases

One new Covid-19 related death was also reported, bringing the Department of Health’s total to 579.

The Derry City and Strabane council area has one of the highest Covid-19 rates in the UK and Mr Swann said it was inevitable additional measures would have to be introduced there.

Neighbouring Donegal is already under tight level three restrictions and officials are watching closely to see what lessons can be learnt.

A so-called two week circuit breaker lockdown is not being considered on Thursday, but the health minister said it could be brought in around the Halloween break at the end of this month, if not earlier.

Eight business organisations have appealed to the Executive not to introduce another lockdown claiming it would deeply damage the economy.

In a joint statement, Belfast, Causeway, Newry and Derry chambers, Hospitality Ulster, Manufacturing NI, NI Retail Consortium and Retail NI urged the NI Executive to “resist placing the local economy in lockdown again”.

They said they feared such a move would lead to business closures and job losses.

Meanwhile, from Thursday pubs and restaurants must close their doors at 23:00 BST under new rules designed to help stem the spread of the virus.

It means no food or alcohol can be served after 22:30 BST and all customers must be off the premises 30 minutes after that.

The rules also apply to hotel bars, weddings and other social events, with no late licences permitted.

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Restrictions on pub opening times have been put in place

No more than six people from two households may sit at the same indoor or outdoor table at a pub or restaurant here, and live music and dancing are banned.

The only exception is a couple’s first dance at a wedding.

In England, there have been calls for a review of the 22:00 BST closing time rule, which has led to crowds forming in some cities after pub doors were shut.

BBC News