// Northern Ireland Executive extends the country’s lockdown until March 5
// This means non-essential retailers face another 4 weeks of closure
// The lockdown was originally due to end February 6
Non-essential retailers in Northern Ireland face an additional four weeks of enforced closure after the Executive extended the country’s lockdown until March 5.
An extended shutdown closing non-essential retailers, keeping schools closed to most pupils and encouraging employees to work from home began after Christmas and had been scheduled to February 6.
While transmission rates are decreasing slowly, new, more contagious variants are causing Stormont ministers concern.
- Scotland lockdown extended until mid-February
- Non-essential click-and-collect banned amid tougher Covid restrictions in Scotland
- Wales introduces stricter Covid restrictions for supermarkets
Curbs may not ultimately be lifted until Easter.
“I appreciate that this will be disappointing to many people listening to us this evening,” Stormont First Minister Arlene Foster said.
“I think particularly of those who are feeling the pain of separation from loved family members and friends, for workers and employers worried about their livelihoods and indeed parents who are juggling the education of their children with work and other responsibilities.”
She added: “The Executive today has reviewed the current restrictions and agreed that they remain an appropriate and necessary response to the serious and imminent threat posed by Covid-19.
“Following a detailed outline from health highlighting continuing pressures on hospitals and intensive care units and the emergence of highly transmissible variants, the Executive has agreed that the restrictions will be extended for four weeks until March 5 2021.”
Stormont health minister Robin Swann proposed the step to help drive down case numbers and ministers agreed yesterday.
Deputy First Minster Michelle O’Neill said it was a difficult decision and the position would be reviewed next month.
“It has been a long and hard road for all,” she said.
“There is no doubt that there are better days ahead but we need to keep working together right now to save lives and protect the health service.”
She also acknowledged that people were worrying about what the lengthy restrictions would mean for their businesses and families.
“We know that we are asking a lot of everyone, we will do everything we can to make sure you are supported during this time,” she said.
CBI Northern Ireland director Angela McGowan said the economic damage could not be underestimated.
“The Northern Ireland Executive must now redouble efforts to get business support to the firms that need it as quickly as possible,” she said.
Lockdown measures that enforce the closure of non-essential retail in other UK countries are also set to continue until at least February.
Earlier this week, Scotland First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said lockdown restrictions were to be extended until at least the middle of February.
In Wales, the lockdown is due to be reviewed at this month, but the Welsh Government has already stated it did not see “much headroom for change”.
Meanwhile, England’s lockdown laws end on March 31.
However, the government has previously said it hoped to ease some restrictions during March.
When England’s third national lockdown came into force earlier this month, it did so after the other countries has already implemented their own lockdowns at different dates prior to it.
Nonetheless, the current restrictions mark the first time the whole of the UK has been forced into lockdown since last spring.
with PA Wires