NORTHERN IRELAND is reportedly on the verge of implementing a fresh new lockdown in a bid to curb the spread of Covid-19.
A new 'circuit-breaker' is being planned from November 27, and is set to last for a fortnight.
Under new restrictions, all non-essential retail will be closed, in a huge blow to the high street during the crucial run up to Christmas.
All non-essential leisure and hospitality businesses will also be closed, as well as churches and other religious facilities.
It's understood that schools will however remain open.
The news comes as Northern Ireland's initial five-week 'circuit-breaker' lockdown came to an end yesterday, after a week's extension was agreed last Wednesday.
Today, cafes, coffee shops, hairdressers and salons are expected to reopen, but will be forced to close again next week should lockdown be reimposed.
Government officials met on Thursday and agreed that further lockdown measures were necessary.
Health Minister Robert Swann reportedly warned Stormont colleagues that if action wasn't taken immediately, hospitals in the North would be overrun before Christmas.
Mr Swann also urged the Government to consider imposing local travel restrictions too.
On Thursday, Northern Ireland confirmed 12 further deaths from Covid-19 and 487 new cases of the virus.