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Northern Ireland to face six-week lockdown starting 26 December

Stormont ministers met for several hours into the evening on Thursday, eventually agreeing to impose a shutdown on 26 December, the PA news agency reports.

Measures to be announced are expected to include the closing of all non-essential retail as well as close-contact services, while the hospitality sector will be confined to takeaway services only.

There are expected to be no changes made to the Christmas bubbling arrangements.

Ahead of Thursday’s executive meeting, economy minister Diane Dodds said Northern Ireland was in an “extremely challenging position” in terms of the virus’s transmission.

“I have said over and over again how difficult this cycle of lockdown is for the economy, we have published data on the cost of the cycle of lockdown to the economy, but we’ll wait and see what the discussion at the executive brings forward,” she said.

It follows first minister Mark Drakeford’s announcement that all non-essential shops will be forced to close in Wales after Christmas Eve, with tighter lockdown restrictions for household mixing and staying-at-home guidance to be introduced from 28 December.

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