The Northern Ireland Executive has decided to limit the arrangements for people to come together over Christmas.
In a late night statement, they said: “Christmas bubbling will now be reduced to one day only on a date between 23 and 27 December, to ensure flexibility for those working on Christmas Day to choose an alternative day that suits best.
“At Sunday night’s extraordinary Executive meeting, ministers discussed the progression of the pandemic and were updated by the Chief Medical Officer and Chief Scientific Advisor on the emergence and rapid spread of a variant strain of the virus.
“The safest place for everyone to spend Christmas is in their own home and people are strongly advised to stay at home for Christmas. Those who feel they need to meet with their bubble should keep it as small as possible, as close to home as possible and keep the visit short.”
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It added: “The Executive is urging everyone to travel only if it is absolutely necessary. Travel is not permitted in or out of Tier 4 areas in England. Restrictions apply in other tier areas. Everyone should comply with all travel restrictions in place for each region and check the guidance at both the point of departure and destination.
“The Executive also discussed the issue of restricting travel and Ministers agreed to consider this further when they next meet.
“In relation to schools, Health and Education officials continue to liaise closely to consider how schools can operate as safely as possible.
“As this is a rapidly evolving situation, the Executive will continue to keep all matters under review.”
Meanwhile, the Irish Government has imposed a 48-hour ban on flights from the UK following fears over the spread of a new strain of Covid-19, while ferries will be limited to freight travel.
The announcement was made by Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan on Sunday evening having being agreed in the Dail earlier in the day.
In a statement, the Government said: “Ministers have engaged with the UK authorities and the Department of Transport has advised airlines of the ban.
“There will be close coordination with the Northern Ireland authorities as these arrangements are put in place.”
The ban is in place for tomorrow and Tuesday and the measures will be reviewed by the Cabinet on Tuesday.
Budget airline Ryanair said all affected customers will receive an email notification and they “will be offered practical alternatives including free moves or refunds if they so wish”.
A statement from the company added: “In the case of all other flights to/from the UK which are permitted to fly, Ryanair will operate these flights to facilitate all passengers who need to travel for business reasons, and are booked on them or wish to move to these flights.
“If any such passengers (booked on operating flights) do not wish to travel during the next five days prior to Christmas, then Ryanair will facilitate a free move of their booking to any date up to March 15.”