Schools in Northern Ireland to close for fortnight as North locks down to curb Covid-19 spiral

Pubs and restaurants in Northern Ireland will close for four weeks, with the exception of takeaways and deliveries, while schools will shut for two weeks over the half-term Halloween break in a bid to slow the spread of coronavirus, First Minister Arlene Foster has confirmed.

Ms Foster announced the restrictions at a special sitting of the Assembly on Wednesday.

She said the rising Covid-19 figures were of “grave concern”.

“We fully appreciate that this will be difficult and worrying news for a lot of people,” she told MLAs.

“The Executive has taken this decision because it is necessary, and we discussed the impacts in great detail. We do not take this step lightly.” Mrs Foster said the Executive hoped the restrictions would have two impacts. “First, on the Covid transmission rates which must be turned down now, or we will be in a very difficult place very soon indeed,” she said.

“Second, we believe it marks a point where everyone, each and every one of us, can take stock and go back to the social distancing messaging. That is vitally important.”

Earlier, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar confirmed the Government was likely to consider increasing Covid-19 restrictions in the Border counties if the North entered a four-week lockdown.

Northern Ireland saw seven more deaths and 863 cases of the virus reported on Tuesday.