Arlene Foster defends easing coronavirus restrictions before Christmas

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Stormont’s prime minister has defended easing Covid-19 restrictions before Christmas in Northern Ireland.
Arlene Foster has suggested that new variants of the coronavirus were a major factor in the surge in the number of cases in the region.

After hospitals in the region faced the most intense weekend of the pandemic to date, Ms Foster was asked whether the executive should take responsibility for relaxing the rules for the holiday season.

“The executive unanimously decided on our Christmas plan, as did the people of the Republic of Ireland, and even the United Kingdom, recognizing the special place that Christmas has for many people. ‘between us,’ Ms Foster said at a press conference in Co Fermanagh. .

“I think it’s more than that. I think we now know the new variant in terms of coronavirus is here in Northern Ireland, the South African variant unfortunately appears to be in the Republic of Ireland, we currently have no detected cases in northern Ireland, we want so be it.
“However, we know the virus is mutating and we are seeing it now and that is why we need to act when we see it happening. ”

Arlene Foster said the R number for new cases in Northern Ireland fell from 1.8 around 10 days ago to 1.1 and 1.2 on Monday.

However, she warned that the pressure on hospitals would continue to mount in the days and weeks to come.

“We’re going to have this pressure on the system I think now for a few weeks and we have to prepare for that,” said the DUP leader.

Asked whether the executive could introduce even stricter restrictions, Ms Foster suggested that new curfews could be considered.

“There are very few options left,” she said.

Ms Foster added: “There are very limited ways to do anything more, other than maybe review the curfews and do something about it. ”

The prime minister said the executive would receive information from Stormont’s health experts at meetings scheduled for Tuesday and Thursday.

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