Northern Ireland

Post-Christmas lockdown will see 'curfew' for a week

Curfew will mean all new year's parties are effectively banned. Picture by Hugh Russell
Curfew will mean all new year's parties are effectively banned. Picture by Hugh Russell

THE post-Christmas lockdown will effectively see a curfew introduced across Northern Ireland for a week, with shops closed and gatherings banned after 8pm.

The first week, starting from St Stephen's Day, will see the toughest restrictions. People have been urged to only to leave their home for essential reasons, meaning that new year's eve parties and celebrations with friends will effectively be banned.

Between 8pm and 6am from December 26 until January 2:

- All shops and other businesses must close

- No one is allowed to gather inside or outside

- Households will not be allowed to mix, either indoors or in private gardens, except in emergencies

- No sporting events will be allowed

During the whole six-week lockdown:

- Hotels, bars and and non-essential retail will be shut. Tighter restrictions on what businesses are deemed non-essential, including homeware stores, are to be introduced

- Essential retail will include supermarkets, chemists, petrol stations and hardware stores

- Click and collect services will not be allowed, apart from in supermarkets

- Alcohol off sales will be allowed up to 8pm

- Restaurants can only offer takeaways and deliveries

- Close contact businesses including hairdressers and beauticians will shut

- Gyms, golf and tennis clubs and swimming pools are expected to close

- Elite sport can resume on January 2, after the first week of lockdown, but with no spectators

Although further clarification is being sought, including on possible tighter restrictions to weddings and funerals, here are the answers to some frequently asked questions.

How will the new restrictions affect Christmas?

- The executive has urged people to only form Christmas bubbles if they are "strictly necessary". If people have formed a bubble at Christmas, the rules on no mixing of households will only apply from December 27. Under previous rules agreed by the four UK administrations, up to three households can meet between December 23 and 27

What about work?

- The executive has asked people who can work from home to do so

Can I still go for a walk after 8pm during the first week of lockdown?

- Yes, but only with members of your own household. You cannot meet friends or family living outside your home

How far can I travel?

- Unlike the Irish government, which has frequently imposed travel restrictions since the start of the pandemic, the executive did not specify a ban on travel across the north

Can I still put my car through its MOT?

- Yes, MOT centres are expected to stay open although further guidance is expected on where vehicles can be washed before the test. People cannot take driving lessons because these come under close contact services

Can plumbers and other tradesmen come into my home?

- Yes, for essential maintenance

What about childcare/ looking after elderly relatives?

- Carers can come into your home to look after your children or vulnerable relatives

What if I was previously shielding?

- People who were shielding during the first lockdown for the health reasons will not be formally asked to do so again. People who received shielding letters in March will be given new guidance

Can I go to the cinema?

- No, cinemas and other businesses, including bingo halls, ice rinks, museums and galleries must close again for six weeks

Will the lockdown go on for longer than six weeks?

- The executive said it is keeping any restrictions under review