Restrictions are to be extended across Northern Ireland.
The current six-week lockdown was announced pre-Christmas and began on Boxing Day, with promises of a review after four weeks.
That review has now been conducted.
And this evening (Thursday), the Northern Ireland Executive has confirmed that restrictions will now be extended until March 5.
First Minister Arlene Foster, speaking at a media briefing from Dungannon , said they had had a “sobering assessment” on the current state of the pandemic from Health Minister Robin Swann.
She said the Executive had made an “appropriate and necessary response to the serous and imminent” situation.
It was agreed the current restrictions will be extended until March 5 and will be reviewed on or before the February 18.
She added: “We all know what we are battling against and it’s been moving swiftly across this community.”
First Minister Foster said the R rate was now down to “well below one” – between .65 and .85 – and “that shows our efforts are having a real effect”.
She said there had been a “significant reduction in the number of people travelling” and were abiding by the regulations and thanked everyone for playing their part.
“We have made progress but our war and battle against Covid is not yet won,” added First Minister Foster. “We are asking for support to keep going.”
The First Minister said this week the NHS is reaching the Covid peak and that has led to the military being called in to help.
And she said based on the situation from the autumn levels will decrease gradually and it was necessary to keep restrictions in place.
The Executive, added First Minister Foster, will have “comprehensive discussions” next week around schools returning and the broader educational scene.
Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said hosptials were facing their “toughest week yet”.
For that reason and to help with the fight she said the “difficult decision” had been made to have restrictions extended until March 5.
For businesses and those worried about the impact, the Deputy First Minister pledged: “We will do evertything we can to make sure that you are supported during this time.”
She said they needed “certainty” regarding schools and the Education Minister Peter Weir will bring a paper to the Executive next week.
Deputy First Minister O’Neill also said confirmed there were no additional restrictions asked for by the Health Minister above and beyond those currently in place.
The present lockdown, among other things, ordered all close-contact services to be closed from Boxing Day and this included hairdressers and beauty salons.
All non-essential retailers are also currently closed with no click and collect available, unlike during the recent circuit-breaker.
All hospitality businesses are closed except for providing deliveries and takeaway services. In the case of hotels, the lockdown came into effect two days later, on December 28, to accommodate bookings already made. They will remain closed.
And there are currently no car washes and no alcohol sold after 8pm with off-licences closing at that time.
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