Restrictions on visiting other households are to be reintroduced in parts of Northern Ireland after a rise in cases of coronavirus.
The new rules affect people in Ballymena, those who live in the Belfast council area and addresses with postcodes BT43, BT28 and BT29.
Those postcodes take in areas north east of Ballymena, and parts of Glenavy, Lisburn and Crumlin.
There will be some exemptions, including household “bubbles”.
No more than six people from two households in the affected areas will be allowed to gather in a private garden.
The measures, which mark the first series of localised restrictions to be imposed in Northern Ireland since the lockdown in March, will take effect next week.
They are expected to be in place for at least a fortnight.
First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill outlined the restrictions as they led their first joint press conference together at Stormont for 73 days.
Mrs Foster urged people living in the affected areas to “please take action now and stop the spread of the virus”.
“There is a creeping of the virus across Northern Ireland and we need people to work with us to stop that,” she stressed.
Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill urged people living in the affected areas to “avoid unnecessary travel outside the restricted zone”.
She said hospitals and care homes in those areas would also be advised to limit visitors, with one family member being allowed to visit once a week.
That will be reviewed, she added.
“We may also have to add postcodes to this as the situation develops,” she said.
Mrs Foster said the executive needed to limit social interactions between households in order to “push down the rising curve of infection” in the areas with the highest rates of the virus.
The exemptions include:
- Those in a social bubble with one other household
- Those with caring responsibilities including childcare
- Essential maintenance
- Supported living arrangement
- Visits required for legal or medical purposes
- Marriage or civil partnerships where a person is terminally ill
The deputy first minister urged people outside of the affected areas “not to think they are invincible or immune”.
‘It’s the dinner party’
Ministers also agreed to provide about 600 pubs in Northern Ireland which do not serve food with a new indicative date to reopen.
The executive agreed that drink-only pubs can provisionally reopen on 21 September, but this will have to be ratified closer to the time.
Non-food pubs in the Republic of Ireland are also aiming to reopen on the same date but it is being kept under review.
Prof Ian Young, NI’s chief scientific adviser, told the press briefing he was satisfied the mitigations being taken by the hospitality industry would ensure it was safe to reopen.
Mrs Foster said at present, the “villain is not in businesses where numbers of customers are regulated”.
“It’s is in our homes – it is the house party, it is the dinner party – it is the few people coming around for drinks or coffee,” she added.
The executive also agreed to give the green light to soft play areas in Northern Ireland reopening from Monday.
Thursday’s announcements came as one more coronavirus-related death was recorded in the Newry, Mourne and Down area, with 79 new cases throughout NI also reported.
That brings the total to 568 deaths and 8,035 cases.
In the past seven days, there have been 177 new cases in the Belfast council area.