Protest to be held in Derry this morning over decision to keep cemeteries closed during coronavirus pandemic

Local MLA has written to Health Minister asking him to consider reopening graveyards

city cemetery

A Derry politician believes that cemeteries should be re-opened despite the ongoing coronavirus lockdown.

All cemeteries were closed to members of the public several weeks ago.

Only those attending funerals are allowed to enter graveyards.

However, many people have complained that the closure of the cemeteries has only added to the coronavirus trauma for many people who are unable to visit loved ones' graves.

Derry City and Strabane District Council, who manage most of the local cemeteries, has stressed that they remain closed.

A council spokesperson said they were required to follow instructions from the Northern Ireland Executive.

“We understand how difficult this is for people but the decision to reopen is not the council's to make and we would urge you to please adhere to the advice to stay at home and help to prevent the spread of this virus,” the council spokesperson added.

However, Foyle MLA Mark H Durkan said he has written to the Health Minister Robin Swann asking for the decision to close cemeteries to be reconsidered.

“I fully understand that the closure of our cemeteries has caused people disappointment, difficulty and distress,” he said.

“I also appreciate that the decision to close was a difficult one for government and for our local council, given its sensitivity, but that it was taken with the sole intention of reducing risk and saving lives.

“We should not compromise our commitment to either but I believe that a controlled and safe reopening of cemeteries here is possible and have written to the Health Minister asking him to give it consideration.”

It is understood that some people will take part in a protest at the City Cemetery in Derry today against the ongoing closure of graveyards.

The organisers of the protest stressed that they will be following social distancing guidelines.

The 15-minute protest is planned to take place at the Lone Moor Road entrance to the cemetery.

Anyone taking part is asked to remain in their car for the duration of the protest.

Meanwhile, the coronavirus death toll in Northern Ireland now stands at 194.

On Saturday, it was announced that 17 more people had died, while yesterday another death was announced.

Another 159 people have tested positive for the virus in Northern Ireland, bringing the total to 2,645, with a total of 16,490 individuals tested.

Across the UK the number of deaths has increased by 596 in the past 24 hours, with the total now standing at 16,060.
In the Republic, 610 people have died.

A new coronavirus testing centre for healthcare workers opened at City of Derry Rugby Club on Thursday.

The Department of Health said that, to date, 32 people have been tested at the centre.

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