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The more stringent measures brought into Northern Ireland come after Prime Minister Boris Johnson introduced a new lockdown system to England. The three-tier system categorises local authorities in England into “medium”, “high” or “very high” risk categories in a concentrated effort to target regions that need it the most. The entirety of the UK is having to take a harsher approach to the pandemic as numbers have been steadily rising throughout the last few months.
Are schools in Northern Ireland closing?
First Minister of Northern Ireland Arlene Foster confirmed schools will close again in Northern Ireland.
The new rule will take effect on Friday evening and is just one of a number of restrictions introduced by Ms Foster.
Schools will take a two-week half term break instead of the usual week, and resume on November 2.
It comes as NI’s department of health recorded another 1,217 cases and four more deaths from Covid on Wednesday, October 14.
Announcing the move, the First Minister said: “In education, the half term holiday break will be extended from 19 to 30 October, with schools reopening on Monday, November 2.
“To permit this the Department of Education will allocate to schools two of the Optional Days and the remainder of the additional time through Exceptional Closure Days.
“As across other jurisdictions, the issue of schools, along with other considerations, will be kept under continuous review by the Executive in the weeks and months ahead.”
Some union members criticised the move, saying not enough detail had been provided to parents and teachers.
Hospitality businesses will also be limited to takeaways and delivery only for a four-week period, also beginning on Friday, October 16.
Health officials had made stark warnings infections would continue to rise if both schools and hospitality venues stayed open.
NI’s department of health has now recorded 23,115 cases since the pandemic began in March – a quarter of which were reported just last week.
Speaking to the NI Assembly Ms Foster said: “The Education Minister had proposed a way forward to minimise the loss of learning for our young people, I think that’s hugely important.
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“Others would have wanted to have closed the schools for a longer period of time.
“Fundamentally the education of our young people is a right and absolutely their life chances need to be protected.”
Ms Foster said “we are only taking the route of the Halloween break as was and a number of extra days”, due to the impact of closing schools on children.
She added: “This is a two week break and children will return to school on November 2.”
Other rules to take effect in NI on Friday:
- Closure of the hospitality sector, apart from deliveries and takeaways
- Other fast food and takeaway venues to close at 11pm
- Off licenses and supermarkets not allowed to sell alcohol after 8pm
- No indoor sport or organised contact sport involving mixing of households, other than at elite level
- No mass events involving more than 15 people
- Close contact services like hairdressers and beauticians to close
- Mobile hairdressers and makeup artists banned from working in homes
- Gyms to stay open for individual training, but classes are banned
- Places of worship will stay open, but face coverings are mandatory when entering and exiting
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