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Mid & East Antrim Council takes action to tackle Covid spread and protect public finances

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Mid and East Antrim Borough Council has announced changes to a number of its services as Northern Ireland enters into a four-week period of tighter restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of Covid-19.

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

Within the latest measures, the Executive said no unnecessary travel should be undertaken when the new restrictions come into effect on Friday 16 October, and this has been key when considering which Council services should temporarily close.

Following two emergency meetings of Council’s Group Party Leaders, the decision was taken to shut Ballymena’s Seven Towers Leisure Centre, Larne Leisure Centre and Carrickfergus Amphitheatre from Friday evening (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 Larne Contact Children’s Care Centre
  • Facilities in Greenisland and Carrick Town Hall 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 have a duty, which is more pressing than ever, to protect ratepayers’ money, and this is why we have taken the decision to close these facilities for the short period of time and their closure will help suppress the spread of the virus.

“A very small number of residents have returned to our leisure centres and this is a similar situation in our community centres, with only 30% of our regular users having returned since lockdown.

“Over the past six months, income from our community centre facilities has fallen by 80% compared to the same period last year.

“Given the guidance for no unnecessary travel in Northern Ireland to help reduce the number of Covid cases, and the financial impact from the low usage of these two services, they are not viable to remain open at this time.

“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.

“We thank our citizens for their understanding and patience as we all work together to overcome this virus which has caused such huge disruption to our daily lives and devastation for many.

“We will continue to work closely with our community, our businesses and our partners to do all we can to support them over the weeks and months ahead.”

As announced by the Executive, new restrictions will also apply to weddings and funerals in Mid and East Antrim from Friday 16 October, with the number of those attending both capped at 25.

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