All museums and galleries in the Derry City and Strabane area have closed under local Covid-19 restrictions.
On 1 October, the Northern Ireland Executive announced new restrictions for the district. Under these, cultural attractions including museums and galleries are not allowed to open. Libraries are allowed to provide call and collect services.
The restrictions came into force on 5 October for two weeks, and will be reviewed every week after that. The area has one of the highest rates of Covid-19 in the UK, with more than 600 people per 100,000 infected.
Under the new rules, hospitality businesses can only stay open for take away, delivery and outdoor dining. No indoor gatherings with people from different households are allowed, and outdoor gatherings are limited to 15 people.
Some local businesses closed before the restrictions officially began, including the Museum of Free Derry, which closed with immediate effect on 1 October. The institution posted on Twitter: “Showing Leadership. Putting safety first. Closing with immediate effect. It’s what we do. Stay safe folks.”
The Centre for Contemporary Art Derry-Londonderry has announced it is closed until 20 October, saying: “We hope to see you sooner rather than later. Until then, stay well and wear your masks!”
A statement from Northern Ireland’s first minister Arlene Foster and deputy first minister Michelle O’Neill announcing the restrictions said: “We know that localised restrictions are an established method of suppressing the virus. Returning to the previous lockdown is not where any of us want to go and that means taking effective localised action now.”
Foster and O’Neill also wrote an open letter to the people of Derry and Strabane, saying: “These new restrictions will be tough for many of you. But they are necessary to reduce the rate of infection and prevent people from becoming seriously ill.”
The executive has announced a support package for hospitality businesses directly impacted by the local restrictions.
This week stricter rules were brought in across Northern Ireland. Face coverings are now compulsory in more settings, and people breaching regulations can be fined up to £200.