Donegal watches as Northern lockdown looks likely

Covid-19 increases could spark drastic steps across the border

Donegal watches as Northern lockdown looks likely

Covid increases mean Northern Ireland could be heading into a major lockdown

Health officials in Donegal are keeping an anxious eye on developments across the border today as there has been talk of a possible six-week lockdown across NI in a last ditch effort to curb the spread of the virus.

It is understood a review of the measures would take place after four weeks.

Northern Ireland's Executive ministers are meeting to discuss the plan, brought by Health Minister Robin Swann.

It proposes the closure of non-essential retail after Christmas Eve, and hospitality only allowed to offer takeaway services.

Close contact services including hairdresser and beauty salons would also have to shut again.

It is also understood health officials have proposed essential shops in NI would have to close by 8pm every night during the first week of a new lockdown.

It is believed there could be changes to what is classed as essential retail, and the potential that click-and-collect services would not be permitted.

The first week of a fresh lockdown could also see tighter rules on indoor and outdoor gatherings and a ban on people meeting others in private gardens.

Health officials have also proposed measures to limit the reopening of schools in January and it's understood a package of interventions will be drawn up by the education and health departments.

However any new lockdown restrictions will have to be signed off by the whole executive, which is meeting now to consider Mr Swann's paper.

Today, Thursday, a further 12 Covid-linked deaths were recorded in NI and a further 656 cases of the virus.

The new proposals before the executive come amid warnings from health officials that the system is struggling with winter pressures exacerbated by the pandemic.

Ministers will have to decide the date of when any new measures would take effect, how long they would last and how strict they would be.

They will also assess the latest data from the chief medical officer and chief scientific adviser regarding the R-number in NI, which measures the infection rate of the virus.

The executive has expressed concerns that the spread of the virus has not reduced following a two-week limited lockdown, and that cases could spike further after the Christmas holidays unless more interventions are introduced.

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