// Northern Ireland shuts retail and hospitality for two weeks, from Nov 27, to curb spread of Covid
// It was expected to emerge from a limited circuit-breaker lockdown but infections numbers rose to worrying levels
// It comes as 11 council areas across Scotland enters lockdown today, and England enters its 3rd week of lockdown
Northern Ireland will shut non-essential retail, pubs and restaurants for two weeks from November 27 to save the health service from becoming swamped.
The country was poised to emerge from a limited circuit-breaker lockdown until the number of infections rose to worrying levels.
Close-contact services and cafes can open this Friday as planned but will have to close again next Friday, while other hospitality sectors like pubs and licensed restaurants will remain closed throughout, Stormont ministers said.
- Non-essential retail to enter lockdown in 11 local councils across Scotland
- UK footfall shows sign of resilience despite England’s second lockdown
- Non-essential retail in Wales reopens as firebreak lockdown comes to an end
From November 27, non-essential retail and services like hairdressers, beauticians and driving lessons will also have to shut to protect an NHS battling a surge in coronavirus cases.
Takeaway hospitality will be allowed but leisure and entertainment venues will be closed.
Business leaders have predicted a “huge” number of redundancies.
Stormont First Minister Arlene Foster said: “The Executive has been presented today with the sobering prospect of our hospitals becoming overwhelmed within weeks.
“It is clear that a tough, carefully timed, intervention is required to give us the best chance to have a safe and happy Christmas and further into the new year period.”
The Stormont Executive also decided sporting events will only be allowed for elite athletes, with no spectators, and rules around household gatherings will be unchanged and places of worship will close.
Schools and child care centres can remain open while universities will conduct distanced learning except where it has to be face to face.
Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said: “It is a difficult and challenging decision and as a mother and daughter I understand how difficult these new interventions will be on family lives.
“Given the gravity of the situation there is no other choice but to act now.”
The news comes as 11 local council areas across Scotland – including Glasgow – enters lockdown from today.
Meanwhile, England has just started its third week of a nationwide second lockdown and Wales continues to have varying levels of restrictions in place after lifting its 17-day firebreak lockdown last week.
with PA Wires