Circuit-breaker breakdown: What EXACTLY does the new NI lockdown involve?

With the DUP now going along with the idea of a renewed kind of mini-lockdown in the run-up to Christmas, the News Letter here tries to disentangle exactly what the rules from November 27 will mean.

Friday, 20th November 2020, 2:01 pm
Updated Friday, 20th November 2020, 3:25 pm

Beginning on October 16, the NI Executive tightened the rules around Covid, effectively shutting down pubs, restaurants and cafes (though the retail sector at large was permitted to remain open), as well as “close contact” services like hairdressers and make-up studios.

The school half-term break was extended by two weeks to Monday, November 2.

Fast-forward to November 12, and – after days of deadlock – the NI Executive decreed the following:

PACEMAKER PRESS BELFAST 20/11/2020 Businesses in Northern Ireland such as cafes and hair salons reopened this morning as the four week long coronavirus restrictions came to an end. However, the Executive decided last night that a new two-week circuit-break lockdown will begin on 27 November. This means all non-essential retail, close-contact services, restaurants, and churches will have to close. Pictured: Gary Monteith opens Blethers Cafe in Belfast. Photo Pacemaker Press

That “close contact services” would be able to re-open (by appointment) from November 20; cafes were also allowed to open from November 20 (but would have to close by 8pm); pubs were to be allowed to sell off-sales from November 20; and all other elements of the hospitality business were meant to reopen on November 27.

This was less severe than the lockdown which SF, SDLP, Alliance, and UUP had wanted – but the DUP twice used its veto power as the biggest unionist party to block Robin Swann’s plan for a tougher two-week shutdown, which he had argued was what the medical experts were demanding.

Then as of Thursday this week there was a sea-change in the DUP’s attitude.

It agreed to a two-week “circuit breaker”, kicking in on November 27 – next Friday.

This means closure of “non-essential retail” (see below for details) as well as “close contact” services.

It also means the shutting of all hospitality (pubs, restaurants, hotels – except hotels catering for “essential travel”), and “all leisure and entertainment” (including gyms), and all churches (except for weddings and funerals).

Schools, airports and ports are to remain open.

When it comes to essential businesses, this is a basic breakdown of the businesses which will be allowed to stay open:

~ Food retailers (including supermarkets, newsagents, convenience stores, Post Offices, and corner shops)

~ Off licences and other places selling booze

~ Pharmacies

~ Petrol stations, mechanics, bike shops, and MOT services

~ Taxis and car hire firms

~ Banks, building societies, and credit unions

~ Undertakers

~ Laundrettes / dry cleaners

~ Dentists, opticians, audiology services, chiropody, chiropractors, osteopaths (and other medical or health services, including services relating to mental health)

~ Vets, pet shops, garden centres, homeware shops, building and hardware stores, livestock markets, and farming supplies stores

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