| 11.6°C Belfast

Coronavirus: Executive announces raft of lockdown relaxations for Northern Ireland

Hairdressers, barber shops, nail bars and beauty parlours will be permitted to reopen from July 6, and churches from June 29, the First and Deputy First Ministers announced on Thursday.

The political leaders also said teachers will return on August 17 in preparation for P7, Year 12 and Tear 14 pupils going back to school from August 24.

Other pupils will go back to school at the start of September.

There will also be changes to the two metre social distancing requirement for schools. Pupils will be required to stay one metre apart, with teachers remaining two metres from their class members.

This will allow schools to function "close to normality" the First Minister said.

From July 1 there will no longer be restrictions on who can access childcare. The "key workers only" rule is to be dropped. From June 29 registered childminders will be able to care for children from four families, rising to five families in August.

A programme of targeted activity to support children and young peoples to be set up over the summer, including a programme to support children who are in receipt of free school meals.

There will also be support for schools which wish to run ‘catch-up’ programmes to help children make up for lessons they have missed because of the Covid-19 emergency.

And from July 31, vulnerable people who have been shielding will no longer have to do so.

Guidance on the safe reopening of religious buildings, as well as for hairdressers and barbers, is currently in preparation.

The First and Deputy First Ministers emphasised that the easing of restrictions has been possible because of the low transmission rate of coronavirus in Northern Ireland.

All the relaxations announced on Thursday are dependent on the ‘r rate’ - the reproductive rate of the virus - remaining below 1, Mrs Foster and Ms O’Neill told a press conference it currently sits at between 0.6 and 0.9.

If that rate rises above 1, restrictions may have to reimposed.

Michelle O'Neill said: “Community transmission is low, which gives us some headroom to signal our intention to make further easements, as per our plan.

“We had flexibility built into that plan and we have headroom to continue to look forward. We've also said that this going to be gradual, and it's not easy. It's far from from simple but we're guided by the science.

"Everything we do is looking to the future; it's about supporting families.”

There were no coronavirus-related deaths reported in Northern Ireland on Thursday.

The coronavirus death toll for Northern Ireland remains at 543.

Coronavirus Data Graphs

Top Videos