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Four-week coronavirus circuit breaker for Northern Ireland

Written by: Emma Lunn
Boris Johnson is under increasing pressure to introduce a circuit breaker in England, following a similar move in Northern Ireland.

First minister Arlene Foster has announced a number of measures that will come into effect on Friday 16 October and will be in place for four weeks.

A “circuit breaker” is a relatively short national shutdown designed to stop the exponential increase in Covid-19 infections.

What are the circuit breaker rules in Northern Ireland?

Schools in Northern Ireland will close for two weeks, including the half-term holiday, until Monday 2 November, when their closure will be reviewed.

Hospitality businesses will be limited to takeaway and delivery services for four weeks.

Social bubbles will be limited to a maximum of 10 people from two households, with overnight stays in a private home banned unless in a bubble.

Close contact services such as hairdressers and beauticians will close.

Only elite level indoor sport or contact sport will be allowed. Gyms can stay open but for individual training only with local enforcement in place. Shops can stay open.

Wedding ceremonies, civil partnerships and funerals will be limited to 25 people with receptions not allowed.

People living in Northern Ireland have been asked to work from home where possible, while universities should aim to deliver distance learning to the maximum extent possible. No unnecessary travel should be undertaken.

First minister Arlene Foster said: “We are facing the tough reality of rapidly rising rates of infection. There are increasing numbers of people requiring acute care in our hospitals and sadly we learned yesterday of the death of seven people from Covid-19.

“The executive has given careful and painstaking consideration of the right blend of actions that will do maximum damage to the virus but minimum harm to life chances today and tomorrow.

“We understand that these interventions will be hard but they will not be in place for a moment longer than they need to be. I would ask everyone to work with us to save lives and protect our health service.”

What’s happening elsewhere in the UK?

The UK government is only responsible for lockdown rules in England. This is because health is a devolved matter, which means Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are responsible for their own policies in relation to public health matters.

Johnson announced a three-tier system of local lockdowns for England on Monday. People can be fined up to £10,000 for breaking the rules in their area.

Most of the tier two and three areas are in the north of England, with London in tier one. But London Mayor Sadiq Khan warned yesterday that the capital is likely to enter tier two lockdown within the next few days.

Johnson has been accused of ignoring scientific advice after it emerged that the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) pushed for a circuit breaker lockdown in England several weeks ago.

The scientists advised closing restaurants, gyms and hairdressers, urging people to work from home, and converting universities to remote learning.

Labour leader Keir Starmer has also urged Johnson to implement a circuit breaker lockdown in England.

The Scottish government announced last week that pubs in the country would be barred from selling alcohol indoors for 16 days.

The Welsh first minister Mark Drakeford told Sky News that his government was carrying out “detailed planning” for a potential short national lockdown.

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