Northern Ireland to impose 8pm curfew in week after Christmas

Decision to increase restrictions from St Stephen’s Day made with ‘heavy heart’ - Swann

Ministers took the decision to put Northern Ireland into a six-week lockdown from St Stephen's Day with a "heavy heart", the North's health Minister Robin Swann said on Friday.

As well as the general closure of the hospitality, retail and leisure sectors Mr Swann also provided more detail of what has been described as a “curfew” for the first week of the lockdown over the Christmas and New Year holiday period.

This, it is understood, is largely designed to try to prevent Christmas and New Year house parties.

Under this more stringent week of restrictions “no indoor or outdoor gatherings of any kind” will be permitted between 8pm and 6 am. That also applies to sporting venues.


In addition “all businesses which are able to remain open as part of the restrictions must close between these hours”.

Moreover, no household mixing will be permitted “in private gardens or indoors in any setting between these times”, except for emergencies or the provision of health or care services or where households have chosen to form a Christmas bubble for a period of time between December 23rd and 27th.

Similar curfews also apply in France and parts of Germany. "The evidence before us was clear that decisive intervention was required to prevent the growing tide of Covid-19 cases overwhelming our health service, with catastrophic consequences," said Mr Swann on Friday.

"Many parts of Europe have introduced significant restrictions for the same reason," he added.

Meanwhile, the latest figures published by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (Nisra) show that 86 people died in the North with suspected Covid-19 in the week up to last Friday (December 11th), taking the agency’s death toll to 1,594.

Of this total, 949 (59.5 per cent) deaths took place in hospital, 530 (33.2 per cent) in care homes, nine (0.6 per cent) in hospices and 106 (6.6 per cent) at residential addresses or other locations.

The 539 deaths which occurred in care homes and hospices involved 126 separate establishments.

The comparative number of deaths reported daily by the North's Department of Health up to the same date was 1,120.

That difference of 474 deaths is explained by the fact that the health department figures mainly relate to deaths in hospital and patients who had previously tested positive for the virus.

Nisra’s figures go further in that they relate to death certificates in the wider community where Covid-19 was recorded as a factor in the death.

The figures also show that over the last 37 weeks – the period of the pandemic – the number of “excess deaths” was 1,899 which are deaths above the average for the corresponding period in the previous five years.

The Nisra statistics further illustrate that of the 667 deaths of care home residents involving Covid-19 up to last Friday that 79.5 per cent (530) occurred in care homes, with the remaining 137 in hospital. The deaths of care home residents therefore accounted for 41.8 per cent of all Covid-19 related deaths in Northern Ireland.

The North’s health department in its figures published on Friday afternoon reported twelve more deaths taking its total to 1,166.

There were 510 new cases of the virus taking the total to 60,797.

Hospital bed occupancy is at 102 per cent. There are 445 patients receiving Covid treatment in Northern Ireland hospitals with 31 in intensive care and 26 on ventilators.

Gerry Moriarty

Gerry Moriarty

Gerry Moriarty is the former Northern editor of The Irish Times