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Northern Ireland to go into four-week partial lockdown



a person holding a sign: Photograph: Liam McBurney/PA


© Provided by The Guardian
Photograph: Liam McBurney/PA

Northern Ireland is to close schools, pubs and restaurants in a raft of new restrictions to try to contain exploding rates of Covid-19 infection.

Arlene Foster, the first minister, announced the partial lockdown on Wednesday at a special sitting of the Stormont assembly in response to what has become a pandemic hotspot.

The new rules start on Friday and are to last four weeks with the exception of schools, which will shut for two weeks.

The hospitality sector will close apart from deliveries and takeaways. Off-licences and supermarkets cannot sell alcohol after 8pm. There will be no indoor sport or organised contact sport involving mixing of households, other than at elite level.

Close-contact services, apart from essential health services, are to cease. Mobile hairdressers and make-up artists are banned from from working in homes. Gyms can remain open for individual training but no classes are permitted. Places of worship can stay open but people must wear face coverings when entering and exiting.



a person holding a sign: Richmond shopping centre in Derry. The city and the Strabane council area have a rate of 970 per 100,000 people.


© Photograph: Liam McBurney/PA
Richmond shopping centre in Derry. The city and the Strabane council area have a rate of 970 per 100,000 people.

Bubbling will be limited to 10 people, with no overnight stays unless people are in a bubble. Universities will be encouraged to use distance learning only.

“The executive has taken this decision because it is necessary,” Foster, the leader of the Democratic Unionist party, told the assembly. “We do not take this step lightly.” She said the measures did not amount to a lockdown and promised financial supports to cushion businesses. Some business leaders had lobbied against fresh restrictions, warning of bankruptcies and job losses.

Foster implored people and businesses to get “back to the basics” of social distancing, hand hygiene and other measures and hinted at further measures should infection rates continue to climb. “We will need to exit these arrangement most carefully.”

Northern Ireland’s cumulative seven-day rate of infections per 100,000 people is 334, one of the highest in Europe. Derry city and the Strabane council area have a rate of 970 per 100,000 people – far outstripping Liverpool, England’s worst hit city, with 634 cases per 100,000 people.

On Tuesday Northern Ireland’s department of health reported seven deaths and another 863 infections. Some 6,286 new cases of the virus have been recorded in the last seven days, raising the total since the pandemic began to 21,898.

The Belfast health trust cancelled 105 elective surgeries because of Covid-related pressure, saying it had reached a “trigger point” for admitting patients to intensive care.

Of 150 people being treated in hospital for coronavirus 23 are in intensive care and 15 are on a ventilator. At two hospitals run by the Northern health and social care trust more than 30 nurses are self-isolating because of a Covid-19 outbreak.

The new restrictions came amid intense behind-the-scenes wrangling in the power-sharing executive, with the DUP balking at demands from Sinn Féin and other parties for a sharper “circuit-breaker” lockdown,

Dutch PM Orders ‘Partial Lockdown’ To Halt Coronavirus Surge

The Netherlands will go into “partial lockdown” to curb one of Europe’s biggest coronavirus surges, with all bars, cafes and restaurants to close, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said Tuesday.

The sale of alcohol and cannabis will also be banned after 8pm (1800 GMT) in a bid to reduce the social contacts that have led to the rise in Covid-19 cases, Rutte said of the steps.

After long refusing to make the wearing of masks compulsory, Rutte finally ordered that non-medical face coverings must also be worn in all indoor spaces by people aged over 13.

“We are going into a partial lockdown. It hurts but it’s the only way, we have to be stricter,” Rutte told a televised press conference.

“If we do all of this, we can quickly return to a more normal life.”

The rules will take effect at 10pm (2000 GMT) Wednesday and will last for an initial period of two weeks, when the government will review whether they have halted the spread of the virus.

The Dutch government for months opted for what Rutte called an “intelligent lockdown” policy that was far more relaxed than its European neighbours.

But it has scrambled to control the second wave of the disease.

The Netherlands currently has the third highest rate of new infections per 100,000 people in Europe over the last 14 days, behind only the Czech Republic and Belgium, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

After long refusing to make the wearing of masks compulsory, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte finally ordered that non-medical face coverings must also be worn in all indoor spaces by people aged over 13 After long refusing to make the wearing of masks compulsory, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte finally ordered that non-medical face coverings must also be worn in all indoor spaces by people aged over 13 Photo: ANP / Bart Maat

Dutch health authorities on Wednesday reported a daily record of 7,393 new coronavirus infections, with 43,903 new cases over the past week and 150 deaths.

Among the new measures, team sports for over 18s are banned, while people are now limited to having three visitors at their home per day.

The new steps largely target the catering and entertainments industry where the government says the disease is spreading.

Restaurants and cafes will close for everything except takeaway, as will the Netherlands’ famous “coffee shops” that sell cannabis.

“No more alcohol or soft drugs will be sold or delivered between 8:00pm and 7:00am,” the government’s new regulations say, while public consumption of either is also banned during those hours.

The Netherlands has also lagged behind other European countries in ordering the wearing of masks, but Rutte said he wanted to “settle a lingering discussion once and for all”.

The Dutch government gave “urgent advice” to wear masks in its last set of measures two weeks ago, but “that did not provide sufficient clarity” and many people continued to go without them, said Rutte.

Rutte, who marks ten years in power on Wednesday, has faced growing criticism over the government’s failure to rein in coronavirus cases.

Populist opposition parties in particular have been using the Covid-19 crisis to push their

All AZ counties now OKed for partial reopenings

PHOENIX — Arizona is reporting 705 additional COVID-19 cases and 24 more deaths as health officials say all 15 counties have cleared state benchmarks for partial reopening of certain businesses.

The overall statewide total of confirmed cases is now 219,212 cases, and the death toll 5,674.

Arizona’s Department of Health Services says the classification of largely rural, southeastern Graham County improved to “moderate transmission stage.” That made it the final county to meet criteria for reopening businesses such as indoor gyms, bars serving food and movie theaters.

One county, tiny Greenlee in southeastern Arizona, is at “minimal” status, the highest step below normal conditions.


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HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

— Push to bring coronavirus vaccines to the poor faces trouble

— In Appalachia, people watch COVID-19, race issues from afar

— NFL postpones Steelers-Titans game after more positive tests

— The White House is backing a $400 per week pandemic jobless benefit and possible COVID-19 relief bill with a price tag above $1.5 trillion.

— France’s health minister is threatening to close bars and ban family gatherings, if the rise in virus cases doesn’t improve.

— Americans seeking unemployment benefits declined last week to a still-high 837,000, suggesting the economy is struggling to sustain a tentative recovery from the summer.

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Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

HELENA, Mont. — Nearly half Montana’s confirmed COVID-19 cases came in September as the state continues to report record numbers of infections.

The state reported 429 cases Thursday, the highest daily total by a margin of 81.

The state saw just over 6,000 cases in September, or 44% of the 13,500 since mid-March.

The true numbers are thought to be much higher because not everyone has been tested, and studies show people can have COVID-19 without having symptoms.

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BOISE, Idaho — Idaho will remain in the fourth and final stage of Gov. Brad Little’s economic-reopening plan for at least another two weeks as coronavirus infections and deaths rise.

The Republican governor says Thursday Idaho will receive 530,000 rapid antigen tests that will be prioritized for schools. Little also announced Thursday the formation of an Idaho COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Committee in anticipation of a vaccine that would be distributed by the federal government.

Stage 4 of Idaho’s plan 4 allows most businesses to open.

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WASHINGTON — U.S. health officials say hospitals bought only about a third of the doses of remdesivir that they were offered over the last few months to treat COVID-19, as the government stops overseeing the drug’s distribution.

Between July and September, 500,000 treatment courses were made available to state and local health departments but only about 161,000 were purchased.

Dr. John Redd of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said Thursday that “we see this as a very good sign” that supply now outstrips demand and it’s OK for hospitals to start buying the drug, also known as Veklury, directly from maker