Arlene Foster has said any new period of full lockdown in Northern Ireland should only happen as part of a co-ordinated move across the UK.
The First Minister said it would also need to be accompanied by fresh financial supports from the Treasury.
Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said a lockdown, if it were to be required, should be undertaken across the island of Ireland and the UK.
Announcing new restrictions for Derry and Strabane Council area on Thursday, both leaders made clear they did not feel it was currently proportionate to introduce a so-called ‘circuit-break’ lockdown across Northern Ireland, given the contrasting rates of transmission in different parts of the region.
Asked about the prospect of such a move later in the autumn, potentially coinciding with the Halloween mid-term school holiday, Mrs Foster said: “If we are to be in that position my absolute preference would be that that would happen at a nationwide basis and that, in terms of the support that was available, that that would come from Westminster.”
The DUP leader highlighted the nationwide measures that were offered during the lockdown earlier this year and noted that the furlough scheme would be ending month.
“So if we are to go into that situation we need to have a discussion with our colleagues in the other nations of the United Kingdom because we do need to have financial support to do that,” she said.
“We’re very much aware that if you’re asking people to stay at home, not go to work and to keep children at home from school that there are huge financial burdens around that and therefore that has to be taken into account, as well as of course dealing with the transmission of the virus.”
Ms O’Neill said if another national lockdown was required efforts should be made to “align” it with school holidays.
The Sinn Fein vice president added: “But I think for such a concept to be effective it would have to happen right across the island, certainly in my mind, and indeed actually I think it should happen across both of these islands.
“For this reason – people here look to the Executive for advice, they also hear what’s happening in Dublin and they hear what’s happening in London and they can be forgiven for being confused in the middle of all of that.
“So certainly I think, if we were going to move forward with this concept, it would be much better if it was done across the two islands together.”