Northern Ireland to shut nightclubs as COVID-19 cases hit record high

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Vaccination Clinic at Belfast Central Fire Station in Northern Ireland

DUBLIN (Reuters) -Northern Ireland ordered the closure of nightclubs from Sunday after reporting an all-time high of 3,231 COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, up from an average of just over 2,000 in the previous seven days due to the highly transmissible Omicron variant.

The devolved government of the British region also ordered an end to ordering at bars and limited restaurants to serve no more than six people per table.

But it stopped short of matching the 8 p.m. closure imposed on hospitality venues in the neighbouring Republic of Ireland last week.

Several members of the devolved administration have said they are limited in what they can do due to funding constraints from London.

"The precautionary approach would have been to impose much more severe restrictions right now," said Health Minister Robin Swann. "All other things being equal, the executive would have gone further today."

A total of 2,958 people have died in the region, which has a population of 1.9 million, since the start of the pandemic, data showed after three additional deaths were reported on Wednesday.

(Reporting by Ian Graham and Conor Humphries, editing by Andy Bruce and David Evans)

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