Northern Ireland today begins its toughest lockdown measures yet, including a curfew from 8pm

Northern Ireland has entered a new extended lockdown on Boxing Day as coronavirus cases remain high.
Belfast city centre earlier this month before shops reopened. Now shops will be closing again, including all shops after 8pmBelfast city centre earlier this month before shops reopened. Now shops will be closing again, including all shops after 8pm
Belfast city centre earlier this month before shops reopened. Now shops will be closing again, including all shops after 8pm

The first week of the measures are the toughest yet, with a form of curfew in operation from 8pm, shops closed from that time and all indoor and outdoor gatherings prohibited until 6am.

With almost every conceivable reason to leave your home after 8pm effectively banned, the period from today 26 to January 2 could be likened to a week-long 8pm curfew.

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Almost all aspects of public life will be shut down for a period for the coming week, when the restrictions are particularly severe, and with some of the restrictions going even further than those imposed during the spring.

Many of the new restrictions will extend beyond this week, and last for six weeks.

Non-essential retail will close throughout the six weeks, as will close contact services.

Households can’t mix in each other’s homes, with exceptions for childcare or bubbles.

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All sports will be banned entirely, with outdoor exercise only permitted with people from your own household.

The restrictions which will be in place throughout the six-week period from Boxing Day onwards will include the closure of the entire hospitality industry — except for takeaways and deliveries.

All retail deemed non-essential will be closed, even for click-and-collect services.

Off-licenses, however, will be allowed to operate between 8am and 8pm, except on Sunday when they will only be allowed to open at 10am but will have to close at the same time.

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All close-contact businesses — business such as hairdressers and beauty parlours — will close.

Churches “can remain open under strict conditions”, the Department of Health say.

The Christmas plan to allow people to form a ‘bubble’ and allow mixing of three households over five days between December 23 and 27 in Northern was change in the run-up to December 25.

Instead, the Stormont executive changed the rules to allow the so-called Christmas bubble to meet on only one day – Christmas Day itself.

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An exception will be allowed, however, for people who have to work on Christmas Day but even these families are being told to restrict their bubble to a single day even if it’s not on December 25.

Covid infection rates remain high, with a virulent strain first discovered in southern England and London recently detected in Northern Ireland.

Stormont’s chief scientific adviser has said Northern Ireland would have witnessed thousands of Covid-19 deaths if no action had been taken to suppress the coronavirus.

Professor Ian Young has said the already over-capacity health service would have been completely swamped in January.

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He warned the number of Covid-19 inpatients would have soared to between 3,000 and 4,000 by the end of the month if no action had been taken.

Recently, queues of ambulances were witnessed at accident and emergency departments (EDs) across Northern Ireland as patients were treated in car parks due to a lack of capacity inside hospitals.

At one point, 17 ambulances containing patients were lined up outside the ED at Antrim Area Hospital.

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