6 week lockdown agreed to reduce R rate

A new lockdown will begin on 26 December, the NI executive has agreed.

Non-essential shops in NI will close from the end of trading on Christmas Eve in a bid to stop the spread of Covid-19.

Ministers will review the measures after four weeks.

Close-contact services, such as hair salons, will have to shut and pubs, cafes and restaurants will be restricted to takeaway services.

The first week of the lockdown, running until 2 January, will see even tighter measures with essential shops having to close each day by 20:00 GMT.

No sporting events will be permitted at all - even at elite level - with people being urged only to leave their home for essential reasons.

Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill said she recognised the lockdown would be "disappointing" for many people, but that it was clear a "longer and deeper intervention" was necessary.

"The health service would be completely crushed in January if we didn't intervene now, so while this is draconian, it's about saving lives," she said.

"We've never been in such a bad position as we are now, and will be in January if this didn't happen now."

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