The new six-week lockdown in the North is “draconian but necessary”, Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill has said.
Rising cases there saw Stormont introduce tough new restrictions which will come into force on St Stephen’s Day.
All non-essential retail and contact services will close, as well as restricting the hospitality sector to takeaway only.
No sporting events will be permitted in the first week of the measures, with an overarching message to the public to stay at home.
However, the existing arrangements for household mixing over Christmas will be permitted.
The first week of the intervention will also include an 8pm curfew for essential shops.
The measures are set to be reviewed after four weeks.
Minister O’Neill said schools were also discussed and ministers agreed they should remain “open for now”, but added the health and education departments will discuss more moves such as blended learning.
“That conversation continues and I expect that both health and education will be able to say more about that over the course of the days ahead,” she said.
“We’ve never been in such a bad position as we are now and will be in January if this didn’t happen now.
Ms O’Neill said without this action the health service would be “completely crushed” by January.
“Whilst this is draconian in many ways, it’s necessary, and this is about saving lives, this is about saving the health service and this is about taking some pressure off the health care staff,” she told reporters at Stormont on Thursday evening.
“We’ve never been in such a bad position as we are now and will be in January if this didn’t happen now.”
She described what ministers have agreed as a “longer and deeper intervention”.
“That’s been a collective position from the Executive that has been arrived at this evening,” she said.
Health Minister Robin Swann said the restrictions will come into effect from midnight on Christmas, effective from Boxing Day.
“The Executive has probably taken its hardest decision, its most deep decision, in regards to how we have had to combat Covid-19 collectively,” he said.Tags: