Livestock marts and agricultural supply shops have been included on the exemption list to stay open as Northern Ireland enters even stricter lockdown measures.

On Thursday night (November 19), the Executive agreed to introduce a further two-week circuit breaker to slow the spread of Covid-19 in the community and protect the health service.

The new restrictions will cover two weeks from November 27 until December 11.

Members of the public are advised to stay at home, work from home if at all possible, and otherwise only leave home for essential purposes such as education, healthcare needs, to care for others or outdoor exercise.

Businesses planning to open today under the current round of restrictions can do so, but will have to close again after just a week.

The measures agreed by the Executive are:

  • Closure of all retail except essential retail that was permitted to stay open in the spring;
  • Off licences will remain open, with an 8:00pm closing;
  • Closure of close contact services, and driving instruction;
  • Closure of all hospitality (except for accommodation for essential travel). Takeaway and delivery, and food and drink in motorway services, airports and harbour terminals remain open;
  • Closure of all leisure and entertainment (to include all soft play areas, gyms, swimming pools etc);
  • Sporting events only permitted for elite sports. Individual/household outdoor exercise and school PE to continue;
  • Elite sports events behind closed doors without spectators;
  • No household gatherings of more than one household, other than current arrangements for linked households (bubbles), with current exceptions for caring, maintenance, house moves, etc.;
  • Closure of places of worship, except for weddings, civil partnerships and funerals. Remain with 25 max for weddings and funerals;
  • Schools and childcare to remain open;
  • Universities and colleges must provide learning at distance except where essential;
  • Public parks and outdoor play areas remain open.

A financial support package will be developed over next few days to help those affected.

The Executive said it took the decision to introduce the "circuit breaker" from next Friday after modelling indicated it offered a greater likelihood of avoiding further restrictions before Christmas.

Ministers heard that the R number was around 1 and that while the current restrictions have had some positive impact, hospital inpatients numbers are still at a higher level than the first wave and are declining slowly.

First Minister Arlene Foster said: “The Executive has been presented today with the sobering prospect of our hospitals becoming overwhelmed within weeks.

“It is clear that a tough, carefully timed, intervention is required to give us the best chance to have a safe and happy Christmas and further into the new year period.

“The Executive has taken the decision to put in place a short, sharp circuit-breaker from Friday November 27 to reset and drive down infection rates right across Northern Ireland.

This is not the position we had hoped to be in as the current phase of restrictions comes towards an end. The R rate has unfortunately not dropped as far, or for as long, as had been estimated.

"We have taken some time today to look at the reasons for this. Sadly, it is clear that a careless minority have significantly undermined the sacrifices of the many.

“So I want to take this opportunity to say to those who feel it’s acceptable to flout public health advice, think again.

“We all need to work together to save our hospitals, to save Christmas, to save lives.”

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill added: “We know this will be difficult for people to hear, but this is a necessary intervention to protect our health service. And it will give us the best possible chance of getting to the other side of the Christmas period. Our actions as we approach Christmas are crucial.”