PUBS, SCHOOLs and restaurants are set to close across Northern Ireland as part of a period of intensified coronavirus restrictions agreed on by executive ministers.
With the exception of takeaways, all pubs and restaurants will be required to close for four weeks.
Schools will close for two weeks, with one of those weeks covering the Halloween half-term already in place.
The measures differ to the full-scale lockdown imposed during the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic.
They also differ to the “circuit-breaker” restrictions being discussed in England, with shops set to remain open. Churches and gyms will also stay open for individual training only.
Elite sport is also likely to continue, though most other sporting activities will be curtailed.
The restrictions prohibiting the mixing of households will remain in place.
The changes represent a ramping up of restrictions amid increasing infection rates.
The changes were agreed during a late night meeting of the Stormont executive with a formal announcement due to take place in a special sitting of the Assembly in Belfast.
“The Exec has given painstaking consideration to next steps,” deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill tweeted.
“We know this is hard and that people will be worried about their livelihoods, but we will do everything we possibly can to make sure there are protections in place for businesses, workers and families.”
The Exec has given painstaking consideration to next steps.
We know this is hard and that people will be worried about their livelihoods, but we will do everything we possibly can to make sure there are protections in place for businesses, workers and families. Update in morning
— Michelle O’Neill (@moneillsf) October 13, 2020
Under the changes, households will only be able to mix with others in their social bubbles with gatherings limited to gardens of private dwellings with a maximum of six people from any two households.
The closure of hospitality outlets is expected to come into force from Friday October 16. All of the other measures will be rolled out from Monday October 19.
Firster Minister Arlene Foster has already pledged to “stand by” those businesses and individuals affected by the changes.
“For those who will be impacted by any restrictions that we agree, we will stand with you, and we will help you and financially support you as best we can,” she said.
The proposals came after a day in which Northern Ireland recorded a further seven deaths involving Covid-19 along with a further 863 cases reported by the Department of Health on Tuesday.
A total of 6,286 new positive cases of the virus have been detected in the last seven days, bringing the total number of cases in Northern Ireland to 21,898.