NORTHERN IRELAND will go into a six-week lockdown from Boxing Day as Covid-19 cases has spiked.
Non-essential shops will shut from the end of trading on Christmas Eve in a bid to stop the spread of the killer bug.
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The Stormont Executive will review the measures after four weeks.
Close-contact services, such as hair salons, will have to shut and pubs, cafes and restaurants will be restricted to takeaway and delivery services.
However, it is understood people from up to three households in Northern Ireland will still be able in so-called Christmas "bubbles" over the festive period.
Health chiefs have cited low compliance with the regulations and guidance as a reason infections, hospital admissions and death rates remain relatively high.
Today, 12 more coronavirus deaths were recorded in the Northern Ireland, bringing the grim tally to 1,154.
A further 656 infections were also reported today.
Hospital beds are already at a 104 per cent capacity and their ICUs are at 82 per cent capacity, according to the country's Covid-19 dashboard.
The Northern Ireland Ambulance Service announced on Thursday that paramedics from the Irish Republic are set to bolster their numbers this weekend.
Michael Bloomfield, chief executive of the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service (NIAS), said the move is "relatively unusual" and reflects the pressure they are under.
On Tuesday, queues of ambulances were witnessed at accident and emergency departments across Northern Ireland as patients were treated in car parks due to a lack of capacity inside the hospitals.
At one point 17 ambulances containing patients were lined up outside the emergency department of the Antrim Area Hospital.
Today the Northern Ireland health minister Robin Swann had said he would put forward a number of "robust and extreme" recommendations at an executive meeting today.
The draconian lockdown measures will shut retail, hospitality and leisure for six weeks.
It marks the third lockdown Northern Ireland has had to grapple with.
The PM's official spokesman declined to say whether England was considering something similar – though Boris Johnson and other ministers have warned it may be on the cards.
He said this lunchtime in a briefing to journalists: "We've been clear of the rationale behind the tiered regional approach and that's what we've set out for the time.
"That is designed to reduce the rate of transmission and reduce the R rate in areas of high prevalence.
"As we've said throughout we will obviously keep the latest data and the latest trends under review."
No10 sources insisted a third national lockdown was not under discussion.
But it consistently refuses to rule out further restrictions, insisting all measures must remain on the table to curb infections and keep the nation safe.
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