Announcing the new restrictions today (18 December), Health Minister Robin Swann said that non-essential shops will have to close after Christmas Eve and that from 26 December the country would move into a “sustained lockdown” similar to the one it went into in March.
Swan said the new measures had been introduced “with a heavy heart” and that he was mindful of the impact of the first national lockdown, but said fears over the rise in the R number over the festive period had prompted the decision.
"We are in, large part, returning to the sustained lockdown introduced in March," he said.
"Once again, a heavy responsibility will rest on all of us to remain at home as much as possible over the course of the six-week period."
Hospitality Ulster has described the decision as sounding a “death knell” for many businesses.
"Unfortunately, this will sound the death knell for so many who will simply not be able to see through this enforced period,” says chief executive Colin Neill.
"The impact on the economy will run into the hundreds of millions, thousands of redundancies and a sector dead on its feet."
The news follows the announcement by the Welsh Government that hospitality businesses will have to close on 6pm on Christmas Day, with the country then moving from level three to level four – a move which also essentially puts it into a national lockdown.