Restrictions preventing people from leaving home unless it is essential have been introduced in Northern Ireland.

People can be ordered to return to their homes by police as part of measures agreed by Stormont ministers.

The health service is under severe pressure, with hospitals at full capacity and cancer surgery among operations cancelled in Belfast.

Official statisticians have said 115 deaths involving Covid-19 occurred in the week of 19-25 December, with a further 91 deaths occurring from 26 December to 1 January.

The total Covid-19 related deaths figure has now reached 1,895, the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency said.

The weekday traffic volume has already fallen by around 58%.

Tighter rules around movement will remain in place until 6 February but will be reviewed later this month.

They have forced most mainstream schools to remain closed after Christmas.

A-level and GCSE exams are cancelled and gatherings for religious worship have been halted.

Stormont ministers are set to meet today, with a row about a planned school transfer test set to be discussed.

Post-primary transfer tests – used by many grammar schools to select pupils – were due to be held soon, with the first scheduled for tomorrow.

Essential reasons for travel include food shopping, exercise and for work if remote is not an option.

Those found to have breached the rules can be issued with a £200 fixed penalty notice or a fine of up to #5,000 if the case goes to court.

Indoor and outdoor gatherings have been reduced from 15 people to six from only two households.

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Stormont Justice Minister Naomi Long said: “It’s often second nature to nip out in the car but we must all stop and ask ourselves if that journey is essential.

“Where possible, we must all stay at home.

“Staying home means you will not fall foul of the law.

“Staying home means you will protect your loved ones; and staying home means you will save lives.”


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