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Coronavirus Northern Ireland updates: Local restrictions coming into force in Greater Belfast and Ballymena as 'wet' pubs to re-open on September 21

  • Local restrictions implemented in Belfast, Lisburn, Crumlin and Ballymena postcode areas to limit contacts among private households
  • Schools, pubs and restaurants not impacted by new measures, as wet pubs given new indicative re-opening date of September 21
  • O'Neill concedes Storey funeral attendance 'undermined' public health message
  • Arrivals from Portugal will need to self-isolate from Saturday
  • Department of Health death toll at 568 in NI, while cases now exceed 8,000
  • Scroll down to follow updates as they happened

The first and deputy first ministers have announced a tightening of Covid-19 restrictions in specific parts of Northern Ireland in their first joint Executive press conference in 73 days.

Local restrictions are coming into force in the entire Belfast City Council area and the postcode areas of BT28 (Lisburn) and BT29 (Crumlin), and in the town of Ballymena and the postcode area of BT43.

In these hotspots there will be no mixing of different households in private dwellings, apart from exemptions (e.g. support bubbles, care and childcare arrangements, essential maintenance, etc). No more than six people will be allowed to meet in private gardens from two households.

People are also asked to limit unnecessary travel beyond these areas and should work from home if they can.

Hospitals and care homes in these areas will be advised to limit visitors. One member of a family will be permitted a visit once a week while these localised restrictions apply.

Vulnerable and older people living in these areas are advised to be particularly careful.

Over the past seven days 599 people have tested positive for Covid-19 in Northern Ireland. In the last week, 177 of those have tested positive for the virus in Belfast, with 76 cases recorded in the Lisburn and Castlereagh area and 65 cases recorded in the Mid and East Antrim area.

Belfast has now recorded over 2,000 confirmed cases since the start of the outbreak.

"The medical and scientific advice is that we will see the greatest benefit from focusing on limiting social interactions between households," Ms Foster said.

"That means in these areas only there will be no mixing of households in private dwellings, with exemptions for bubbling with one other household, caring responsibilities including childcare, essential maintenance, supported living arrangements, visits required for legal or medical purposes or marriage or civil partnerships where one partner is terminally ill. No more than six people are to be in a private garden from two households."

The restrictions will come into force next week, but Ms Foster urged people to adhere to them immediately. She added the restrictions will be reviewed in two weeks.

The First Minister also announced that, indicatively, "wet" pubs can re-open on September 21.

She added she understands some people may question why this decision has been made at a time when other restrictions are imposed.

At the moment the villain is not business where customers' behaviours are regulated, it is in our homes, it is the house party, it is the dinner party, it is the few people coming around for drinks or a coffee. First Minister Arlene Foster

Arlene Foster and Michelle O'Neill had ceased their regular joint briefings after the funeral of veteran republican Bobby Storey in June.

Earlier, Ms O'Neill acknowledged that the NI Executive's messaging around Covid-19 restrictions had been undermined by the controversy around Bobby Storey's funeral.

“I am glad we are standing here on this platform today at a crucial time in the fight-back against Covid-19," Ms O'Neill said.

It comes as the Department of Health announced a further death from Covid-19 in the Newry, Mourne and Down area over the past 24 hours and 78 new cases of the virus.

The death toll from coronavirus in Northern Ireland now stands at 568, with 8,035 people having tested positive. On Wednesday 8,543 tests were carried out on 5,492 people.

There are currently 13 Covid-19 patients in Northern Ireland's hospitals, with two in intensive care units (ICUs). Hospital bed occupancy is at 88%, with 14 ICU beds remaining free.

Here's how the day unfolded:

Belfast Telegraph