THE Executive has agreed to introduce a two week circuit breaker to slow the spread of Coronavirus in the community in a bid to protect the health service.
The new restrictions will cover two weeks from November 27 until December 11.
Those businesses that were planning to open today, Friday, under the current restrictions can do so, but will have to close again next Friday.
The measures agreed by the Executive are:
- Closure of all retail except essential retail that was permitted to stay open in the Spring.
- Off licences will remain open, with an 8pm closing.
- Closure of close contact services, and driving instruction (not motorcycles), except close contact for Film and TV production; those ancillary to medical, health and social care services; and elite-sports therapeutic services - i.e. – as 13 October-19 November.
- Closure of all hospitality (except for accommodation for essential travel). Takeaway and delivery, and food and drink in motorway services, airports and harbour terminals remain open.
- Closure of all leisure and entertainment (to include all soft play areas, gyms, swimming pools etc).
- Sporting events only permitted for elite sports. Individual/household outdoor exercise and school PE to continue.
- Elite sports events behind closed doors without spectators.
- No household gatherings of more than one household, other than current arrangements for linked households (bubbles), with current exceptions for caring, maintenance, house moves, etc.
- Closure of places of worship, except for weddings, civil partnerships and funerals. Remain with 25 max for weddings and funerals.
- Stay at home, work from home if at all possible, otherwise only leave for essential purposes such as education, healthcare needs, to care for others or outdoor exercise.
Schools and childcare to remain open.
- Universities / FE to provide learning at distance except where it is essential to provide it face to face.
- Public parks and outdoor play areas remain open.
- Stay at home in guidance, with liaison with PSNI on policing and police visibility.
A financial support package to be developed over next few days.
The Executive took the decision to introduce the circuit breaker from next Friday after modelling indicated it offered a greater likelihood of avoiding further restrictions before Christmas.
Ministers heard on Thursday night that the R number was around 1 and that while the current restrictions have had some positive impact, hospital inpatients numbers are still at a higher level than the first wave and are declining slowly.
First Minister Arlene Foster said: “The Executive has been presented 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 Executive has taken the decision to put in place a short, sharp circuit-breaker from Friday November 27 to reset and drive down infection rates right across Northern Ireland."
Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said: “The Executive has given detailed consideration to the evidence in front of us and listened very carefully to the medical and scientific advice on the progression of the epidemic. It paints a stark picture of the situation we are facing into.
“Seventy six people have lost their lives to Covid-19 in the last week alone. Hospital occupancy currently stands at 100%. Our hospitals remain under extreme pressure, as do the staff we depend on to deliver care. To do nothing would inevitably lead to the entire system becoming completely overwhelmed."