Latest local lockdown rules for Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland will begin another circuit-break lockdown on November 27, just one week after their lockdown eased on November 20.
The lockdown, which was announced by ministers on Thursday, November 19, will see the closure of all non-essential retail, restaurants, close-contact services and places of worship, except for small weddings and funerals. Schools will remain open.
The leaders of all four home nations recently agreed a UK-wide plan to allow up to four households to mix for five days over Christmas.
The five day break will apply in every part of the country between Christmas Eve to December 28.
Although no final decision has been made on how many households will be able to get together, sources have indicated it will be either three or four households, meaning families will be able to have both sets of grandparents to stay.
Northern Ireland is discussing a cross-border agreement with Ireland, which means the same rules are likely to apply in every part of the British Isles.
In a statement, the Cabinet Office said the leaders of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland had “endorsed a shared objective of facilitating some limited additional household bubbling for a small number of days”.
However, they also “emphasised that the public will be advised to remain cautious, and that wherever possible people should avoid travelling and minimise social contact”.
Families must decide on their extended bubbles in advance and will not be able to mix with anyone from outside that bubble during the festive break.
Though businesses such as hairdressers and cafes were allowed to reopen from November 20, they will only operate for the next week before the latest measures will force them to close once again.
Health Minister, Robin Swann, had told ministers that if no new measures were introduced by the end of November, even a full lockdown in mid-December would not be enough to prevent the health service being swamped by Covid-19 cases, PA News Agency reported.
The DUP, who stringently opposed his calls last week to extend Northern Ireland’s circuit-breaker lockdown by two weeks, have shown signs of shifting position on the new restrictions.
On the morning of Thursday, November 19, the same day the lockdown was announced, several senior DUP members highlighted that the medical and scientific evidence had changed from last week, with the infection rate (the R number) having increased from 0.7 to 1.
DUP MP Gavin Robinson insisted the party had not performed a U-turn.
“You have to operate on the basis of the information that is available to you at any one time,” he told BBC Radio Ulster.
It took four days for Stormont ministers to agree the extension because the parties in the power-sharing administration were divided over whether to give primacy to medical advice, to keep hospitality closed to hamper the spread of the coronavirus or to reopen part of the economy to save livelihoods.