Indoor concerts and theatre venues are to reopen without restrictions from Monday, July 26.
And, from the same date, arrivals from amber list countries who have been fully vaccinated in the UK will not have to self-isolate or take a day 8 test post-arrival in Northern Ireland.
There are also further relaxations planned in terms of schools, international travel, places of worship, household settings and other areas of day-to-day life.
The Executive received an update today (Thursday) on the progression of the Covid-19 epidemic and, after very careful consideration of a range of factors, are signalling the intention to move forward with relaxations as outlined below.
The Executive has decided that from 26 July, to be ratified on 22 July:
Arts and music venues
Audiences will be able to return to seated theatres and concert halls and other such venues. Entry to performances for audiences will be by ticket only. Tickets must be purchased in advance of the performance. Audiences for indoor events must have allocated seating and remain seated. Social distancing of 1m will be required.
Conferences and exhibitions can resume.
In concert venues, theatres and other indoor venues, live music will be permitted for rehearsals and performances with no restriction to background or ambient levels of volume. Entry to performances for audiences will be by ticket only. Tickets must be purchased in advance of the performance.
Audiences for indoor events must have allocated seating and remain seated (unless using facilities) and are not permitted to dance. Social distancing of 1m will be required.
This can include a space within larger premises – for example a function room or conference suite within a hotel. In such circumstances, access to the venue must be effectively controlled and managed and the venue must be sufficiently isolated from the rest of the premises to ensure that the volume of the music in the venue does not breach ambient or background levels in other parts of the premises.
Entry to performances for audiences will be by ticket only. Tickets must be purchased in advance of the performance. Audiences for indoor events must have allocated seating and remain seated.
In indoor domestic settings a maximum of ten people from no more than three households will be permitted. If one household has ten or more members, the maximum is increased to 15 from no more than three households. Children aged 12 and under are not counted in the total number.
At outdoor domestic settings a maximum of 15 people from an unlimited number of households will be permitted. Children aged 12 and under are not counted in the total number.
As a consequence of these relaxations for indoor and outdoor domestic settings, the linked households/bubble provision will be removed from regulation.
Close contact services
Within close contact services the requirement for an appointment will be removed and overlapping appointments will be allowed.
Where a legal requirement to socially distance exists it will be reduced to 1 metre for indoors activities and removed for all outdoor activities. It is still recommended that social distancing at 2 metres is maintained where possible and if not, a minimum of 1 metre is facilitated for indoors events.
Public transport is exempt from the social distancing requirement however guidance is that it should be 1m unless not possible, in which case other mitigations must be in place.
MOT centres can resume normal services. This will allow the customer to be present in the testing hall and to take their vehicle through the process with the examiner. The requirement for vehicle examiners to wear face coverings at all times in the test hall will be removed.
Places of worship
The requirement for the wearing of face coverings in places of worship will move from regulations into guidance only.
For the new school year, school “bubbles” and the requirement to wear face coverings in the classroom will be removed from guidance. This includes a full return of extracurricular and support activities and youth services.
We are conscious that other jurisdictions are making changes to their own regulations and requirements over the coming weeks. It is important to make clear that the decisions taken by the Executive today have been taken in a local context and are those which apply here.
Any measures not outlined in these relaxations, such as the requirement for face coverings in other settings, the requirement for self-isolation and travel will be considered in more detail at our meeting on 12 August.
During August the Executive will also consider issues relating to working from home, further relaxations in domestic settings, the remaining mitigations in the hospitality sector, the return of further and higher education and the return of live music and dancing without restrictions.
In relation to international travel we have decided that from 26 July arrivals from amber list countries who have been fully vaccinated in the UK will not have to self-isolate or take a day 8 test post-arrival.
The definition for a ‘fully vaccinated’ traveller is someone who:
has completed a full course of vaccination, whether that requires two doses or one dose (according to the MHRA authorised schedule as approved by MHRA and/or EMA); and
has completed the full course of vaccination at least 14 days previously.
We have agreed three cohorts who should be exempt from these measures (i.e. treated as if they are fully vaccinated):
Clinical trial participants
Children under 18
Those with medical advice against vaccination.
These groups would still need to complete a PLF, pre-departure testing and day 2 post arrival testing. Further work is required on the specifics as well as on how to certify these exemptions.
The First Minister and deputy First Minister will write to the Irish Government with the intention of resolving any anomalies in relation to international travel arrangements. We are aware that people here depart and arrive through airports based across the island and for public safety and clear messaging it would be beneficial to all to have co-operation and consistency.