No localised lockdown in Ballymena area but Health Minister Robin Swann introduces Northern Ireland wide coronavirus restrictions

A member of the public passes Health Minister Robin Swann's constituency office in Ballymena. Picture: Ballymena Daily.

NO localised lockdown was announced for the Ballymena area on Thursday but Health Minister Robin Swann did introduce a Northern Ireland-wide reduction on the numbers who can gather indoors and outdoors, including in households.

As the Mid & East Antrim Borough Council has been experiencing the biggest rise in Covid cases in Northern Ireland in the last fortnight there had been fears in some quarters that could have led to localised restrictions.

Currently up to 10 people from four households can meet indoors and 30 in a garden.

The amendments, announced on Thursday, will reduce the number that can meet indoors to six people from two households.

The number of people that can participate in an outdoor gathering, including in a private garden, will also change from the current 30 people to 15.

Certain events can have more than 15 people attending as long as a risk assessment is carried out and necessary measures are put in place.

This will include weddings, church services and sporting events where a close adherence to social distancing and hygiene regimes continues to apply.

The Executive also agreed some upper limits on gatherings and events that can be introduced quickly depending on the transmission of the disease.

The changes will be introduced next week.

The changes will apply across Northern Ireland, but the Executive accepted that localised measures may be needed in the future to arrest the spread of the virus.

With the transmission of the virus increasing in the community and the R number currently at around 1.3, the Executive agreed that no new indicative dates will be set and no further restrictions lifted.

Ministers stressed the importance of people taking responsibility for their actions and following the public health advice to protect themselves and others.

Washing your hands well and often; practising good respiratory hygiene, keeping your distance from others and wearing a face covering in retail settings and on public transport stops the spreads of the virus and saves lives.

The Executive also encouraged the public to download the StopCovidNI app and if people are displaying the symptoms of the virus, to get tested and to self-isolate for 14 days in the event of a positive result.

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