Northern Ireland to Impose COVID-19 Restrictions After Christmas to Curb Surge of Omicron Strain
07:15 GMT 23.12.2021 (Updated: 07:54 GMT 23.12.2021)
© AP Photo / PETERShoppers go about their Christmas shopping at the continental market at Belfast City Hall, Northern Ireland (File)
© AP Photo / PETER
LONDON (Sputnik) - Northern Ireland will impose restrictions the day after Christmas to curb spread of the Omicron coronavirus strain, which now accounts for over 40% of COVID-19 infections in the country, Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland Michelle O'Neill said.
"The executive has taken [a] decision to protect people and protect the health service over the coming days and weeks", O'Neill said in a video posted on her Twitter account on Wednesday.
The deputy minister told reporters that nightclubs would be closed and indoor dancing would not be allowed from 6 a.m. on 26 December. Moreover, all indoor standing events will be prohibited.
In addition, starting 27 December, only residents of a maximum of three households will be allowed to gather together. Guests will also be required to be seated with a maximum of six people, or 10 people from a single household at a table.
Citizens are also recommended to work from home and to maintain a social distance of two metres.
The deputy minister said the decision would help keep infection rates down and relieve the pressure put on healthcare workers and emergency services.
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The measures may be revised on 30 December, O'Neill said. The Northern Irish authorities are closely monitoring the situation.
The United Kingdom has faced a surge in COVID-19 cases ahead of Christmas. The country has been breaking records for several days in the number of registered infections. The total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases with the Omicron strain has exceeded 74,000. The Ministry of Health has predicted that the number of Omicron infections in the country may exceed a million by the end of December.
On 8 December, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that the country would move to so-called Plan B. Britons are now encouraged to work from home whenever possible and required to wear a face covering. In addition, a COVID-19 pass confirming vaccination is now mandatory for visiting crowded places. Daily testing is required for those who may have come into contact with carriers of the coronavirus.