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Coronavirus Northern Ireland: What is changing from July 26

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Paul Givan Photo: PressEye

Paul Givan Photo: PressEye

Michelle O'Neill Photo: PressEye

Michelle O'Neill Photo: PressEye

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Paul Givan Photo: PressEye

The Executive is to consider removing the requirement to wear face masks in all settings next month, as a number of other relaxations are agreed by ministers.

The move on face masks follows an announcement by Boris Johnson on Monday, with the Prime Minister signally his intention to end mandatory mask wearing in England from July 19.

During an Executive review of Northern Ireland’s restrictions on Thursday afternoon, it was confirmed mask wearing in places of worship will move from regulation to guidance from July 26.

Coronavirus Data Graphs

A meeting of ministers on August 12 will decide “the requirement for face coverings in other settings”.

The other measures in the latest review include the end of social-distancing requirements for outdoor activities and a reduction of the distance to one metre for indoor settings and are set to come into effect on July 26 following ratification on July 22.

What will change on July 26?

Travel:

Arrivals into Northern Ireland 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 Executive confirmed that to qualify as a “fully vaccinated” person they will need to have received a full course of vaccination, including both doses and have received the vaccination at least 14 days previously.

Those exempt (IE treated as if they are fully vaccinated), include children under the age of 18, clinical trial participants and those with medical advice against vaccination.

Travellers will still have to take pre-departure tests and will be required to take a PCR test on day two of their return.

Conferences, exhibitions and music venues can reopen:

According to the Executive, concert venues, theatres and other indoor venues will reopen. Live music will also be permitted for rehearsals and performances, with no restriction to background or ambient levels of volume.

However, entry to performances for audiences will be by ticket only. Tickets must also be purchased in advance of the performance.

Audiences for indoor events must have allocated seating and remain seated and are not permitted to dance. There will also be a social distancing requirement of one metre put into place.

They added events can be held in larger premises, such as a hotel function room or conference suite, but said such an instance must “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”.

Private homes:

A maximum of ten people from no more than three households will be permitted to gather in a private home.

Fifteen people from any number of households will be permitted to meet in a private garden. Children aged 12 and under are not counted in the total number.

The change in this rule means the end of the so-called ‘household bubbles’.

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Michelle O'Neill Photo: PressEye

Michelle O'Neill Photo: PressEye

Michelle O'Neill Photo: PressEye

Close contact services:

Previously an appointment for a hairdresser or beauty salon appointment was required. The latest Executive review has removed this from July 26, with overlapping appointments also allowed.

MOT centres:

The Executive announced that MOT centres will be able to return to their normal level of service. The changes also mean customers will be able 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 also be removed.

Places of worship:

The requirement for the wearing of face coverings in places of worship will move from regulation into guidance only.

Schools :

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.

Social distancing rules:

The legal requirement to socially distance in areas where it is applicable is set to be reduced to 1 metre for indoor activities and removed altogether for all outdoor activities.

A recommendation will remain that social distancing at 2 metres is maintained where possible and if not, a minimum of 1 metre is facilitated for indoor events.

The Executive announced that public transport will be 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.

What will change in August?

The Executive announced their intention to have a further meeting on August 12 with the intention to discuss the relaxation of some further restrictions.

This is likely to include changes around face masks and further discussion around the requirement for self-isolation.

It is also expected the Executive will 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.


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