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Minister says ‘nothing is ruled out’ for England as Northern Ireland faces six-week post-Christmas Covid lockdown

Speaking on Friday, Minister for School Standards Nick Gibb told BBC Breakfast that the government would be considering all options in the fight against Covid-19 in England.

Asked if there would be another national lockdown after a period of relaxed measures for Christmas, he said: “We think the tier system is a very effective way, of course, but you know, we rule nothing out. This Government is absolutely determined to tackle this virus.”

Gibb added that the government has faith in the current regional approach to tackling the virus. 

“It means that we can identify where, in particular local areas, infection rates are rising, and then we can apply those restrictions on an area-by-area basis through the tier system, and when infection rates are rising we will increase the tier from Tier two to Tier Three,” the minister asserted.

The comments come after Northern Ireland’s administration announced a six-week post-Christmas lockdown for the province.

Speaking on Thursday, Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said she that a “longer and deeper intervention” was necessary but recognised the lockdown would be “disappointing” for many people. 

“The health service would be completely crushed in January if we didn’t intervene now, so while this is draconian, it’s about saving lives,” she claimed. 

The strict lockdown in Northern Ireland will begin on December 26, with all non-essential shops forced to close. Pubs and eateries will be restricted to takeaway services. 

The decision of all UK governments to introduce a five-day period of reduced restrictions for Christmas has sparked condemnation from healthcare professionals and fears of a very serious third wave in the new year.

People in all parts of the UK are now being told to think carefully about their Christmas plans, while Wales and Northern Ireland have made a U-turn on their ‘Christmas bubble’ promises.

Under plans agreed by all four UK administrations in November, up to three households would be permitted to come together from December 23-27.

Healthcare professionals have warned that this household mixing may lead to a “tsunami” of cases after the festive period.

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