The country officially entered a new ‘circuit breaker’ lockdown overnight, just a week after coming out of another limited lockdown.
The country was poised to emerge from the limited circuit-breaker last week. But the number of infections rose as the lockdown came to an end last Friday, sparking ministers to warn that the health service was in danger of being overwhelmed.
The new circuit breaker is expected to last until December 11.
Most of the hospitality sector has now been forced to close again, after cafes and close contact services were allowed to open last Friday.
Non-essential retail and services like hairdressers and beauticians have also all had to close again.
Schools and childcare services will remain open, as well as churches for individual prayer.
Most of the hospitality sector has now been forced to close again, after cafes were allowed to open last Friday following another circuit breaker lockdown
Non-essential retail and services like hairdressers and beauticians have also all had to close again. Pictured: A graphic showing what is and isn’t open – a full list is at the bottom of this article
Takeaway hospitality will be allowed, but leisure and entertainment venues will be closed.
The measures were taken as top doctors warned hospitals could otherwise be overwhelmed.
Speaking at Stormont on Thursday, First Minister Arlene Foster: ‘This is just for a short while longer.
‘It is important to have hope and it is important that we push a little harder over the course of the next couple of weeks.’
Speaking following the announcement of the new measures last week, she 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.
First Minister Arlene Foster said: ‘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’
‘This is not the position we had hoped to be in as the current phase of restrictions comes towards an end. The R rate has unfortunately not dropped as far, or for as long, as had been estimated.
‘We have taken some time today to look at the reasons for this.
‘Sadly it is clear that a careless minority have significantly undermined the sacrifices of the many.
‘So I want to take this opportunity to say to those who feel it’s acceptable to flout public health advice, think again.
‘We all need to work together to save our hospitals, to save Christmas, to save lives.’
Health Minister Robin Swann said: ‘This virus has tested us all across society in ways we have never been tested before.
‘Nowhere has the pressure been more severe than in our health and social care system.
‘Without this further intervention, there was a very real risk of our hospitals being overwhelmed in the run up to Christmas.
Health Minister Robin Swann said: ‘Nowhere has the pressure been more severe than in our health and social care system.
‘Care for Covid and non-Covid patients would have been in severe jeopardy. We must not let that happen.
‘All of us now have to work really hard to achieve a happier festive season. Please follow the public health advice and stay at home.
‘Let’s all redouble our efforts and look after each other.’
The Executive says it intends to enable up to three households to form an exclusive bubble between 23 and 27 December as part of the Christmas easing of restrictions.
However the move has been criticised by some, including hospitality staff.
Hairdresser Bridgeen King, from Castlewellan, told the BBC it was ‘impossible’ to keep opening and closing her salon.
She said: ‘You are doing two-months work in a week to get everybody booked up,’ said Ms King. I have worked 12-hour shifts since Sunday.
‘I am totally exhausted at this stage of the game – but you do it because they are your clients.’
Meanwhile, high street shop owner Gareth Richardson, from Bangor, County Down, told the BBC: ‘It’s going to push more and more people to online sales which, at the end of the day, is the death of the High Street. It’s going to be an uphill struggle.’
The latest figures for Northern Ireland show there have been 51,118 coronavirus cases in the country and 962 deaths.
Yesterday, a further 442 positive Covid-19 cases were recorded in the past 24 hours according to the Department of Health.
The department’s daily dashboard says that there have been a further eight deaths from the virus reported.
In the past week there has been 2,438 new infections with 51,118 individuals contracting the virus since the pandemic began.
Yesterday, the Northern Ireland Executive also announced it was removing travel corridors for those entering the country from Latvia and Estonia.
Anyone entering Norther Ireland from either country after 4am on Saturday, November 28, will have to self-isolate for 14 days.
What is closing and what can remain open in the two-week circuit breaker lockdown in Northern Ireland?
All retail except essential retail;
Off licences will remain open, with an 8pm closing;
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;
All hospitality (except for accommodation for essential travel). Takeaway and delivery, and food and drink in motorway services, airports and harbour terminals remain open;
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.;
Food retailers, including food markets, supermarkets, convenience stores and corner shops;
Off licences and licensed shops selling alcohol (including breweries);
Pharmacies (including non-dispensing pharmacies) and chemists;
Homeware, building supplies and hardware stores;
Motor vehicle repair and MOT services;
Taxi or vehicle hire businesses;
Banks, building societies, credit unions, short term loan providers and cash points savings clubs and undertakings which by way of business operate currency exchange offices, transmit money (or any representation of money) by any means or cash cheques which are made payable to customers;
Laundrettes and dry cleaners;
Dental services, opticians, audiology services, chiropody, chiropractors, osteopaths and other medical or health services, including services relating to mental health;
Veterinary surgeons and pet shops;
Agricultural supplies shops;
Storage and distribution facilities, including delivery drop off or collection points, where the facilities are in the premises of a business included in this list;
Garden centres and ornamental plant nurseries (but not cafes or restaurants in such premises);
Places of worship, except for weddings, civil partnerships and funerals. Remain with 25 max for weddings and funerals;
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, 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;
Stay at home in guidance, with liaison with PSNI on policing and police visibility;
Financial support package to be developed over next few days.