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Coronavirus: New restrictions announced in Derry and Strabane

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Reuters

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Executive ministers are currently meeting to discuss the next steps

Pubs, cafes, restaurants and hotels in the Derry and Strabane council area are to be placed under new restrictions to try and curb the spread of Covid-19.

The executive agreed they will only be able to open for takeaway, delivery and outdoor dining.

It is understood the measures will come into force from next week.

Londonderry’s Altnagelvin Hospital has suspended some services to manage Covid-19 patients.

The Western Trust says elective orthopaedic inpatient services have been suspended and it has implemented its surge plan and re-designate the ward, to manage Covid-19 patients and to have enough inpatient beds to cope with the expected surge.

The Trust says the decision will be kept under review.

It has also warned that it’s facing increased staff pressures, as rising levels of Covid-19 in the community mean more and more staff are being asked to self-isolate.

In a statement, the trust’s Director of Acute Services, Geraldine McKay, said red flag cancer and emergency surgery were continuing, alongside some face-to-face and virtual outpatient clinics.

Meanwhile, the executive agreed to impose the measures on hospitality at its meeting on Thursday afternoon.

Derry and Strabane has one of the highest Covid-19 rates in the UK, and on Wednesday Health Minister Robin Swann said it was inevitable additional measures would have to be introduced there.

It is understood Derry and Strabane council residents will be “strongly advised” to work from home where they can.

People are also being advised to avoid unnecessary travel within the council area and to and from it.

Where journeys are necessary, advice is to walk, cycle or use private transport.

Schools and other educational settings will stay open.

Under the new rules, all museums, galleries and cultural attractions in the council area are to remain closed.

Hotels will only be allowed to provide service to overnight guests.

Call for support package

It is understood Foyle assembly members and other local representatives from Derry and Strabane were called to a meeting with Executive Office representatives about the measures.

Foyle MP and SDLP leader Colum Eastwood urged people to abide by the new restrictions, but said it was “a two-way street”.

“Government cannot restrict trading opportunities in the north west without additional support for businesses that will close and workers forced to be at home,” he said.

He added that he would seek a support package for those affected.

On Thursday, the Department of Health announced a further 259 cases of Covid-19, down from 424 on Wednesday.

Two further Covid-related deaths have been announced, bringing the Department of Health’s total to 581.

The Department of Health mostly records fatalities in a hospital setting.

Northern Ireland is currently recording an average of 250 new cases a day and the number of Covid-19 patients in hospital was doubling every 13 days.

First Minister Arlene Foster said the rise in cases in NI was not “irreversible” and Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said the executive was prepared to respond with further restrictions if necessary.

On Thursday the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (Nisra) published its quarterly Covid-19 bulletin which showed that 10.9% (875) of all deaths were linked to coronavirus from 1 March and 31 August.

The official figures captures all deaths linked to coronavirus – those involving confirmed infections which feature in the department’s daily figures, as well as the suspected cases in which coronavirus is mentioned on the death certificate.

In the Republic of Ireland, 429 new cases of Covid-19 were confirmed on Wednesday with one more death, bringing the overall death toll to 1,804.

What are level three restrictions?

Public health officials at the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) have created a five-level alert system in the Republic of Ireland.

Donegal is currently until level three restrictions until 16 October.

  • Households can mix with one other household
  • There should be no social, family or indoor gatherings
  • No matches or events, with the exception of elite sports
  • The hospitality industry, including wet pubs, is open with additional restrictions for indoor dining
  • Weddings are limited to 25 people

Prof Sam McConkey, from the Royal College of Surgeons’ in Ireland, said new measures will work if the public adhere to them.

He said cases in the Australian city of Melbourne had fallen from 800 cases a day to five after eight weeks of stricter localised restrictions.

He added that tighter localised measures had reduced case numbers in counties Offaly, Laois and Kildare in the Republic of Ireland.

Circuit breaker

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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Pacemaker

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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.

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