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Stormont ministers agree to relax many Covid-19 restrictions in Northern Ireland

They include ending the legal requirement for Covid certification to enter some hospitality venues and the reopening of nightclubs.

Michelle O'Neill and Paul Givan
Michelle O'Neill and Paul Givan
Image: Liam McBurney via PA Images

Updated Jan 20th 2022, 5:11 PM

STORMONT MINISTERS HAVE agreed relaxations on several Covid-19 restrictions in Northern Ireland.

The Stormont Executive agreed to drop the requirement for Covid certification to enter some hospitality venues.

From tomorrow, the requirement to remain seated and the limit of six per table at hospitality venues will be removed. The cap on the number of households meeting inside domestic settings will be removed.

The requirement to provide proof of exemption from wearing face coverings will also be removed and the guidance on working from home will revert to working from home where you can.

The Executive agreed that nightclubs will be permitted to open from noon on Wednesday 26 January.

From the same date, dancing and indoor standing events can resume, and in workplaces the requirement for offices to take reasonable measures for two-metre social distancing will also be removed.

The legal requirement for Covid certification will continue in nightclubs and indoor unseated or partially seated events with 500 or more.

For other settings the certification will no longer be required but its use encouraged.

Remaining Covid restrictions in Northern Ireland will be reviewed by the Stormont Executive on 10 February.

These include the legal duty on retail to take reasonable measures to reduce the risk of transmission, the legal requirement to wear face coverings and the legal requirement for risk assessments in prescribed settings.

Hospital admissions and Covid bed occupancy increased in the last week, but started to slowly fall in the last few days.

Yesterday evening, First Minister Paul Givan said that the self-isolation period for Covid-19 will reduce from seven days to five.

Givan tweeted that the Department of Health has confirmed that the new rule will apply from 21 January.

In the same tweet, Givan also expressed hope that progress can be made at the meeting of the Executive today to lift some Covid measures.

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said that while the pandemic was not over, she believed Northern Ireland had passed the peak of Omicron.

She said: “The pandemic is far from over but we are cautiously optimistic.

“We believe we are through the peak and we believe we have some space now to be able to reverse the protections that we put in place over the course of the last number of weeks.

“It is a positive picture but I would ask people not to be complacent yet, we still have a journey to travel.

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“I do think after our Executive meeting we hope we will be able to say positive things that will be welcomed by both individuals and also by the hospitality sector.”

The deaths of a further two people who had previously tested positive for Covid-19 and another 3,879 cases of the virus were notified in Northern Ireland today.

There were 402 Covid-positive patients in hospital, with 24 in intensive care.

The National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) is also set to meet this afternoon to discuss the possible easing of Covid-19 measures here. 

It’s believed that health officials could examine the end of the 8pm hospitality curfew and a partial return to the office. 

While it had been expected that Cabinet would not make a decision on easing restrictions until next week, government sources have said that a Cabinet meeting tomorrow is “not out of the question” in response to whatever recommendations NPHET issues.

With reporting by Hayley Halpin and Jane Moore

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