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Changes to self-isolation rules agreed for Northern Ireland

Close contacts will no longer have to quarantine for 10 days as long as they test negative and have had both Covid-19 vaccine jabs.

RULES ON SELF-ISOLATION in Northern Ireland are to be relaxed, Stormont ministers have agreed.

It is understood that people who are close contacts of positive cases will no longer have to isolate for 10 days, as long as they test negative and have had both jabs of a Covid-19 vaccine.

The move, which was agreed at a virtual meeting of the powersharing Executive and comes into effect on Monday, brings Northern Ireland into line with rule changes already agreed for the rest of the UK.

At today’s meeting, ministers also agreed to end class bubbling arrangements in schools.

However, ministers decided to retain the use of face coverings in post-primary school classrooms for the first six weeks of the new term.

Allowing the return of conferences and exhibitions is also being considered at Thursday’s meeting, as is the current one-metre social distancing requirement in indoor settings.

All other remaining Covid-19 restrictions will be discussed. These include limits on indoor and outdoor domestic gatherings; use of face masks in indoor settings; the ongoing closure of nightclubs; and restrictions on the hospitality sector such as the six person table limit.

The removal of all remaining rules seems unlikely, but ministers may move on some measures, particularly those with an outdoor focus.

Ministers are meeting for the first time in two weeks amid continuing high infection rates in Northern Ireland.

Transmission rates in the region are the highest in the UK.

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For the seven days up to August 1, the region’s infection rate was 445.3 per 100,000 of the population.

This was almost twice as high as the rate in England (282.1) and more than three times as high as the rate in Scotland (143.6) and Wales (141.5).

Ahead of the meeting, Economy Minister Gordon Lyons said the current requirement for people to isolate for 10 days was having a negative impact on businesses.

“Combined with the difficulties that already exist within the labour market, the self-isolation rules that we have in Northern Ireland are causing real issues,” he told BBC Radio Ulster.

“We’re obviously behind the rest of the UK on this.”

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