Possible localised lockdown-type announcement on the way?

Health Minister Robin Swann

BALLYMENA awaits any possible announcement regarding coronavirus localised lockdown-type restrictions being introduced.

The Mid & East Antrim area had the highest rise in cases in any local government district in Northern Ireland in the last week.

It is understood many of those cases are in the Ballymena area.

Last week a 32-year-old cafe worker in the town died after contracting Covid-19.

It is understood a number of young people in the Ballymena area – including some who have worked in retail outlets – are amongst those confirmed to have the virus.

On Wednesday afternoon it was announced there have been 10 new reported Covid cases in Mid & East Antrim in the last day – the highest rise in the last 24 hours of any district of Northern Ireland.

There were 34 new cases reported across the whole of Northern Ireland in the last 24 hours.

There have been 541 cases in Mid & East Antrim out of 13,039 people tested in the area since the pandemic started.

It is believed discussions have been taking place on Wednesday in sectors of government to discuss the way forward.

If any restrictions are imposed it is not yet known if they would be specific to the whole Mid & East Antrim council area or the Ballymena area only.

Northern Ireland’s rate currently shows 24 cases per 100,000 over the past 14 days.

Chief Medical Officer Michael McBride said the level in Mid in East Antrim is 55.

He says if levels of community transmission rise above 80 cases per 100,000 then he would recommend lockdown measures.

“Obviously if we intervene at an earlier stage then we can prevent the excesses of some of the measures that we had to introduce before,” he said.

“But certainly if we are getting up to that sort of level, and again when we extract particularly the number of new cases over the last week from clusters, then we need to act.”

Health Minister Robin Swann is an Assembly Member for the North Antrim constituency which includes part of the Mid & East Antrim Borough Council area.

He has said he will be recommending Covid-19 restrictions to the Northern Ireland Executive to curb the increasing spread of the disease.

Robin Swann said “we have to step in now” to deal with a rise in new cases.

He said he would be making a number of recommendations when Stormont ministers meet on Thursday on how to help arrest the spread of the virus.

Mr Swann suggested measures may include reducing the number of people who can meet together in a household, the BBC reports.

The decisions will be made after ministers have taken advice from the Northern Ireland Chief Medical Officer Dr Michael McBride and Chief Scientific Adviser Prof Ian Young.

Both men told BBC Radio Ulster they believed changes to current Covid-19 rules were likely and they would be recommending lockdown-easing restrictions at Thursday’s executive meeting.

Northern Ireland has a higher rate per 100,000 of the population than the rest of the UK at present, said Prof Young.

Northern Ireland’s rate currently showed 24 cases per 100,000 over the past 14 days, evidence that pointed to the virus spreading again, he added.

There had been a tenfold increase in new infections since the beginning of July, he said, with almost 300 new cases being confirmed in Northern Ireland in the past week.

“At the beginning of July, it was three to four cases per day – that’s risen to the point where it’s been between 40 and 45 cases per day,” said the chief scientific adviser.

He warned that if the current trend was allowed to continue it would “inevitably” lead to more hospitalisations and deaths.

Dr McBride warned the pandemic was “a long, long way from over”, adding that the public needed to show the “the same, if not greater commitment as before” to curb the current rise in cases.

Northern Ireland was likely to see some changes in terms of the restrictions “that we have taken for granted” in recent months, he told BBC Radio Ulster’s The Nolan Show.

On Tuesday, Stormont’s Department of Health confirmed there had been one further coronavirus-related death, bringing its death toll to 559.


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