Dr Tom Black
A Derry doctor has welcomed the six-week lockdown planned for the post Christmas period.
The Northern Ireland Executive last night announced that the lockdown will start on December 26.
Non-essential shops in NI will close from the end of trading on Christmas Eve in a bid to stop the spread of Covid-19.
The measures will reviewed after four weeks.
Close-contact services, such as hair salons, will have to shut and pubs, cafes and restaurants will be restricted to takeaway services.
The first week of the lockdown, running until January 2, will see even tighter measures with essential shops having to close each day by 8pm.
No sporting events will be permitted at all - even at elite level - with people being urged only to leave their home for essential reasons.
The British Medcial Association's Northern Ireland Council chair, Derry doctor Tom Black, said: “We realise that a full six-week lockdown will be a great sacrifice for us all, particularly if we have just curtailed our Christmas celebrations.
“However, frontline doctors, nurses and health service staff have unimaginable pressures ahead of them over the next few weeks as they try to deliver patient care while Covid cases continue to rise.
“We urge everyone to get behind the health service again, adhere to restrictions and help give us a fighting chance to treat the most sick and vulnerable this winter.”
Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill said she recognised the lockdown would be 'disappointing' for many people, but that it was clear a 'longer and deeper intervention' was necessary.
"The health service would be completely crushed in January if we didn't intervene now, so while this is draconian, it's about saving lives," 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."
The new rules will include:
- Closure of all non-essential retail, including garden centres and homeware shops that previously were deemed essential
- Click-and-collect services will not be permitted
- Closure of close contact services such as hair and beauty salons
- Hospitality businesses will only be allowed to offer takeaway and delivery
- Closure of the leisure and entertainment sector
- Off-licences will have to close by 8pm
- Car washes will be closed
- Hotels will be allowed to remain open until December 28 to 'accommodate the Christmas situation'
- People from up to three households in Northern Ireland will still be able to meet over the festive period in so-called Christmas 'bubbles' - but that will end on December 27
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