LONDON 

Northern Ireland will implement a four-week “circuit breaker” lockdown starting Friday to stem a recent rise in coronavirus cases, the government announced on Wednesday.

First Minister Arlene Foster said the lockdown will run over the half-term school break, which has also been extended and will last two weeks from Oct. 19 to Oct. 30.

“We fully appreciate that this will be difficult and worrying news for a lot of people,” she said.

“The Executive has taken this decision because it is necessary, and we discussed the impacts in great detail. We do not take this step lightly.”

Restrictions include a ban on events of over 15 people, barring people from staying overnight at other people’s homes, closing the hospitality sector with the exception of takeaway services, banning the sale of alcohol in supermarkets after 8 p.m. (1900GMT), and working from home where possible.

It is not a full lockdown, however, with places of worship and retail shops remaining open, and gyms allowed to offer individual training.

The measures will be in force for four weeks and any extension will require a separate decision from the government.

Northern Ireland is one of the four constituent nations of the UK, along with England, Scotland, and Wales. It borders the Republic of Ireland, a separate and sovereign country.

The Derry and Strabane Council area in Northern Ireland has the highest infection rate in both the country and the entire UK.

The move comes a day after UK opposition leader Sir Keir Starmer called for a national “circuit breaker” lockdown in England.

Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford, who also belongs to the opposition Labour Party, told Sky News that the country was also considering a similar move.

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