Northern Ireland enters new Boxing Day lockdown

Northern Ireland has entered a new extended lockdown on Boxing Day as coronavirus cases remain high.

The first week of the measures are the toughest yet, with a form of curfew in operation from 8pm, shops closed from that time and all indoor and outdoor gatherings prohibited until 6am.

Non-essential retail will close throughout the next six weeks, as will close contact services.

Hospitality outlets will be limited to takeaway services.

Organised sport will be banned, with elite athletes included in the prohibition for the first week.

Covid infection rates remain high, with a virulent strain first discovered in southern England and London recently detected in Northern Ireland.

Stormont’s chief scientific adviser Professor Ian Young
Stormont’s chief scientific adviser Professor Ian Young

Stormont’s chief scientific adviser has said Northern Ireland would have witnessed thousands of Covid-19 deaths if no action had been taken to suppress the coronavirus.

Professor Ian Young has said the already over-capacity health service would have been completely swamped in January.

He warned the number of Covid-19 inpatients would have soared to between 3,000 and 4,000 by the end of the month if no action had been taken.

Recently, queues of ambulances were witnessed at accident and emergency departments (EDs) across Northern Ireland as patients were treated in car parks due to a lack of capacity inside hospitals.

At one point, 17 ambulances containing patients were lined up outside the ED at Antrim Area Hospital.