Downing Street refuses to rule out New Year lockdown as Northern Ireland joins Wales in post-Christmas shutdown

DOWNING street has refused to rule out a New Year lockdown after Northern Ireland joined Wales in plans for a post-Christmas shutdown.

Northern Ireland is facing a six week lockdown to try and curb a surge of Covid cases after Christmas and Wales has promised to put the whole country into a three-week shutdown after the holidays.

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The PM's official spokesman said this lunchtime: "We've been clear of the rationale behind the tiered regional approach and that's what we've set out for the time.

"That is designed to reduce the rate of transmission and reduce the R rate in areas of high prevalence.

"As we've said throughout we will obviously keep the latest data and the latest trends under review."

However, No10 consistently refuses to rule out further restrictions, insisting all measures must remain on the table.

Yesterday, Boris Johnson stressed people should have a "merry little Christmas", saying "I'm afraid I really do mean little", as he told Brits to avoid seeing loved ones as much as possible over Christmas.

He warned it could cause already spiralling infections to rip through the country.

The Northern Ireland health minister Robin Swann has said he would put forward a number of "robust and extreme" recommendations at an executive meeting today.

It is understood this means draconian lockdown measures will shut retail, hospitality and leisure for six weeks.

It would mark the third lockdown Northern Ireland has had to grapple with.

Stormont sources told PA the proposals will be akin to the full-scale lockdown in March than the recent circuit break restrictions.

Case numbers continue to rise in Northern Ireland despite the latest two-week circuit-break.

First Minister Arlene Foster threw the country into a four-week lockdown in October, only for it to be extended for another two weeks in November.

Wales is also hurtling towards a post-Christmas lockdown, after First Minister Mark Drakeford made a screeching u-turn on the festive season – meaning only two households, not three, can meet up for the holidays.

For at least three weeks, all non-essential retail, beauty salons, leisure centres will have to close at the end of the day on Christmas Eve.

And bars, restaurants, pubs and cafes must close from 6pm on Christmas day.

Nicola Sturgeon has refused to rule out further lockdown measures in Scotland, but stressed yesterday that the situation in Wales was much more serious.

Ms Sturgeon also gave Scots a gloomy Christmas message, telling them to only see their loved ones for one day over the holidays – and suggesting they stay apart altogether if possible.


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