Covid-19: Mid and East Antrim facilities and services closed

A number of facilities and services across Mid and East Antrim are closed as Northern Ireland enters into a four-week period of tighter restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of Covid-19.

Tuesday, 20th October 2020, 12:38 pm

On Wednesday of last week, the NI Executive announced the month-long range of measures designed to reduce the transmission rate of the virus.

Within the latest measures, the Executive indicated that no unnecessary travel should be undertaken after the new restrictions came into effect on October 16.

Mid and East Antrim Borough Council said the decision was “key” when considering which services should temporarily close.

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Following two emergency meetings of the local authority’s group party leaders, the decision was taken to shut Ballymena’s Seven Towers Leisure Centre, Larne Leisure Centre, and Carrickfergus Amphitheatre from Friday, October 16.

The Ladybirds group will still have access to the Seven Towers to provide childcare.

Further changes include:

- Community centres across Mid and East Antrim will close, with the exception of those which provide childcare services, including Child Contact Centre, Larne. This week’s flu vaccination programme at Oakfield Community Centre in Carrickfergus will also go ahead.

- Facilities in Greenland, Larne will remain open for church services as these are ‘Designated Places of Worship’ and deemed permissible under the Executive guidance;

- The caravan park at Carnfunnock will close for one month to discourage unnecessary travel;

- Outdoor sporting pitches, including MUGAs, will be closed due to restrictions on contact sports;

- The Halloween Monster Drive-In event, which was scheduled to take place at Ballymena Showgrounds later this month, has also been cancelled.

Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Councillor Peter Johnston, said: “The health and wellbeing of our community and staff has been absolutely paramount to Council throughout the pandemic and this continues to be the case as we move into the four-week period of restrictions.

“We recognise the decisions taken will inconvenience a number of our citizens but we must do all we can to protect health and wellbeing of users and staff, and finances during this crisis.”

Meanwhile, Libraries NI branches across the borough were to be open to offer Book and Collect services only from October 17.

“Customers can phone their local library to request a selection of books and arrange a contactless collection. Access to book browsing in branch libraries will be suspended for four weeks,” a spokesperson said.

“Consideration as to how we will continue to offer controlled access to IT services is currently underway and further details will be available [this] week.

“For Book and Collect, simply call the library during opening hours and speak to a member of staff who will set the book(s) aside and arrange a suitable day and time for contactless collection.

“During the four weeks, customers can also continue to access online training and activities, as well as immediate and free access to over 17,000 eBooks and audiobooks, 160 eMagazines and 3,000 eNewspapers in the usual manner.

“For full details on digital services available, the Book and Collect service, including library contact telephone numbers and to keep up to date with further developments, please visit www.librariesni.org.uk.”

Other restrictions announced last week by the Executive included:

- Bubbling to be limited to a maximum of 10 people from two households;

- No overnight stays in a private home unless in a bubble;

- Closure of the hospitality sector apart from deliveries and takeaways for food, with the existing closing time of 11pm remaining;

- Other takeaway premises will be brought in line with hospitality with a closing time of 11pm;

- Close contact services such as hairdressers and beauticians are not permitted to open, apart from those relating to the continuation of essential health interventions and therapeutics;

- No indoor sport of any kind or organised contact sport involving household mixing other than at elite level;

- No mass events involving more than 15 people (except for allowed outdoor sporting events where the relevant number for that will continue to apply);

- Gyms may remain open but for individual training only with local enforcement in place;

- Off licenses and supermarkets will not sell alcohol after 8pm;

- Funerals to be limited to 25 people with no pre- or post-funeral gatherings;

- Wedding ceremonies and civil partnerships to be limited to 25 people with no receptions.

The following advice was also added to the existing health guidance:

- Work from home unless unable to do so;

- Universities and further education to deliver distance learning to the maximum extent possible with only essential face to face learning where that is a necessary and unavoidable part of the course;

- No unnecessary travel should be undertaken;

- Places of worship will remain open with a mandatory requirement to wear face coverings when entering and exiting. This will not apply to parties to a marriage or civil partnerships.

The half term holiday break for schools and colleges has been extended to a two-week break to run from October 19-30.

The retail sector will also stay open at this time, with the Executive indicating that “further engagement is planned to ensure that the sector does everything it can to help suppress the virus.”

Specsavers confirmed its Larne branch remains open for all eye care and hearing needs in the wake of new restrictions.

These include routine eye and hearing tests, contact lens consultations, frame repairs and the sale of glasses, contact lenses, hearing aids and other products.

Meanwhile, Cinema chain Omniplex announced it would be closed for the time being.