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Northern Ireland tightens coronavirus lockdown rules
20 August 2020, 16:58
The Northern Irish government has announced that it will be tightening coronavirus lockdown restrictions.
The number of people allowed to meet up in a group will be reduced following a rise in Covid-19 cases.
In a news conference, health minister Robin Swann said groups who meet outdoors will now be limited to 15, down from 30.
Groups meeting indoors will now be limited to six people from two households. It was previously 10 people from two households.
He also said there would be "focused police enforcement" in areas with high numbers of cases.
The current R number in Northern Ireland is 1.3.
Mr Swann said there would be focused PSNI enforcement in hotspot areas.
Mr Swann added: "Unless we take action now I fear it would soon have been too late to arrest further extensive spread of the virus."
Another 51 people in Northern Ireland have tested positive for coronavirus, according to the Department of Health on Thursday.
Chief medical officer Dr Michael McBride said there was a significant increase in the number of cases among younger people.
He said that partly explained why a similar increase in hospital admissions had not yet been seen.
The medic said some of the evidence about people's behaviour was anecdotal.
"We are seeing increased social mixing, close contact occurring in domestic settings.
"What we now need to do is act on that evidence and act on it in a proportionate way."
He backed the Stormont Executive's decisions around restrictions.
"I believe they send a signal to the community as a whole.
"They reflect all our concerns at the growing numbers of Covid-19 cases."
Mr Swann attacked "armchair experts" who believed they knew better and had decided to ignore official advice.
One person has been arrested and is in police custody over "personal abuse" directed at the minister, he confirmed.
It comes after the Republic of Ireland "significantly" tightened its lockdown rules after the number of coronavirus cases increased rapidly.
The government there has ordered all businesses to let employees work from home, with new limits were imposed on outdoor gatherings, and people were urged to avoid public transport.
Prime Minister Micheal Martin said the new rules would be in place until at least 13 September following a spike in coronavirus cases over the last three weeks.
He blamed "a large number of people" for flouting the rules.