Social gatherings in Northern Ireland will face new restrictions (Picture: AFP)

Northern Ireland is to impose extra restrictions on social gatherings, the First Minister has confirmed.

Two households will be unable to mix indoors except for single-person household bubbles and certain other exemptions.

No more than six people from two households can meet in private gardens, according to the new restrictions, which come into force at 6pm on Tuesday.

DUP leader Arlene Foster explained: ‘It is in an environment where we feel safe and relaxed that we drop our guard. The mixing of households indoors provides one of the best opportunities for the spread of the virus.’

It comes amid fears that the rest of the UK could see further restrictions imposed in the coming days.

Downing Street said Boris Johnson and the leaders of the devolved administrations had agreed to act with a ‘united approach, as much as possible’ in tackling coronavirus, during calls with devolved leaders earlier today.

A spokeswoman said: ‘During these calls, the Prime Minister made clear that the rising infection rates are a cause for great concern, which he is taking very seriously.

‘He reiterated his unwavering commitment to working with the devolved administrations as we continue to tackle the virus. They all agreed to act with a united approach, as much as possible, in the days and weeks ahead.’


Staff wearing PPE (personal protective equipment) in the form of face shields and gloves serve people enjoying a drink in Belfast city centre on July 3, 2020, as pubs open their doors after the enforced closure due to the coronavirus pandemic. - Pubs, cafes, restaurants and hotels in Northern Ireland are permitted to reopen from Friday as relaxations of the coronavirus restrictions continue. (Photo by Paul Faith / AFP) (Photo by PAUL FAITH/AFP via Getty Images)
Staff wearing PPE serve drinks in Belfast city centre (Picture: AFP)

Previously the restrictions in Northern Ireland were applied to greater Belfast and Ballymena in Co Antrim.

Mrs Foster continued: ‘This is not returning to lockdown.

‘Doing nothing was not an option but neither is returning to full lockdown.

‘These are limited restrictions which I hope by taking action at this early stage means we can prevent the need for more draconian measures.’

Between two and four per cent of tests in Northern Ireland are now positive and show increased community transmission, Stormont’s chief scientific adviser Professor Ian Young said.

More: Coronavirus

The reproductive rate of the virus has risen to 1.4 and in some local districts would be about two.

In the last 48 hours nearly 400 new cases were reported and ‘substantial’ increases have happened across Northern Ireland, the First Minister said.

Professor Ian Young added: ‘The virus is everywhere and will spread everywhere, and hence our advice is that generalised restrictions are required.

‘We believe this is a proportionate response to the increased number of cases, focusing on the settings where most cases seem to be acquired at present.’

He said it had been possible to put in safety measures at hospitality outlets which did not exist in private homes.

More: UK

Pubs which do not serve food will open on Wednesday.

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said people were ‘fed up and tired’ with Covid but it posed a real threat and they had the opportunity to prevent an even more challenging situation this winter.

‘Covid-19 has been allowed to get a foothold in our community and we need to take action now.

‘This is a fightback – the months ahead will be difficult.’

The devolved leaders will take part in a Cobra meeting chaired by Mr Johnson on Tuesday.

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Source: Metro