Northern Ireland will enter a six-week lockdown on 26 December, according to Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill.
Under the agreement, reached by the Northern Ireland Executive, all non-essential retail will be closed.
An overnight curfew will be put in place, with people being told not to visit other households after 8pm.
Health Minister Robin Swann said: “From 8pm to 6am from 26 December … we don’t see mixing in households except for the households themselves.
“For the essential businesses that are open for the rest of the six weeks – they will actually close over that time.
“That’s really to send a signal this is how serious this has to be taken, this is how much we’re asking of the people of Northern Ireland – when we’re curtailing people’s ability to meet in each other’s homes after 8pm.”
Ms O’Neill described the situation as “quite dire”.
“It’s very clear from the positive cases we’re seeing every day that an urgent intervention was required.”
Stormont ministers agreed to close non-essential retail and contact services, as well as restricting the hospitality sector to takeaway only, from 26 December.
No sporting events will be permitted, with an overarching message to the public to stay at home.
However, the festive bubbling arrangements will be permitted.
The first week of the intervention will include an 8pm curfew for essential shops.
The measures are set to be reviewed after four weeks.
“There will also be financial supports put in place, so the current measures which we have had over previous restrictions will be rolled over to support businesses through this very challenging time,” Ms O’Neill said.
For those who had chosen to form a family bubble over the Christmas period, she said they would be allowed to go ahead.
Ms O’Neill said Northern Ireland is in a “worse position” that it has been throughout the pandemic.
“I think the health service would be completely crushed in January if we didn’t intervene now,” she added.
“Whilst this is draconian in many ways, it’s necessary, and this is about saving lives, this is about saving the health service and this is about taking some pressure off the health care staff,” she added.
Ms O’Neill described what ministers have agreed as a “longer and deeper intervention”.
“That’s been a collective position from the executive that has been arrived at this evening,” she said.
Dog grooming will also be open, but car washes will be closed.
Header: Chicken wearing glasses outside charity shop in Belfast, UK – Chris Arthur-Collins, Unsplash