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Covid-19: Northern Ireland re-enters 'circuit-breaker' lockdown after seven-day easing of restrictions

First Minister Arlene Foster said last night that the next two weeks are “crucial”.

Image: PA

A NEW TWO-WEEK ‘circuit-breaker’ lockdown begins in Northern Ireland today.

The restrictions will see the closure of all non-essential retail, leisure and hospitality businesses, and churches, while household gatherings are not permitted.

However, schools are still be allowed to remain open under the restrictions (which can be read in full here).

It comes just a week after a previous five-week ‘cicruit-breaker’ in the North ended, meaning certain businesses were allowed to reopen for one week.

First Minister Arlene Foster said last night that the next two weeks are “crucial” to allow those living in Northern Ireland to have a safe Christmas.

Deputy first minister Michelle O’Neill said that some things needed to be clarified regarding Christmas, which will be discussed at the Stormont executive’s next meeting on Tuesday.

“There is a different in approach across all the jurisdictions in terms of, for example, what a household looks like and it’s important that we define that for ourselves,” O’Neill said.

The latest regulations will last until 10 December, and were agreed during a meeting of the executive’s parties last week.

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At the time, Health minister Robin Swann warned that more interventions were necessary before the end of this month to curb the spread of Covid-19.

There were strong divisions among the Stormont executive when the measures were extended the previous week, as ministers struggled to agree on continuing with restrictions.

Both the DUP and Sinn Fein have been at loggerheads recently over how quickly to reopen the economy.

The DUP were criticised for using a peace process-designed veto to thwart its powersharing partner Sinn Féin’s plans to order an extension of Northern Ireland’s circuit-breaker

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