| 15°C Belfast

Further relaxation of NI's lockdown proposed: What can be lifted, when and why it may not happen

The Executive is set to lift several lockdown restrictions in Northern Ireland from next month, including small weddings, advance hotel bookings and outdoor retail.

Speaking at the daily Executive briefing during week 10 of lockdown, the First and deputy First Ministers Arlene Foster and Michelle O’Neill said the new measures would only come into effect on June 8 if the rate of infection did not increase.

The Executive will decide on June 4 if the restrictions will be eased.

It comes as a further two deaths from Covid-19 in Northern Ireland were announced by the Department of Health, bringing the total to 518.

Coronavirus Data Graphs

In the UK there have been a further 412 deaths confirmed, increasing the total to 37,460. The Irish Republic confirmed 17 more deaths, with a total figure of 1,631.

The latest lifting of measures will allow:

  • Small marriages and civil ceremonies to be held outside attended by no more than 10 people.
  • People will also be allowed to attend to the needs of animals, allowing for horse training and visits to dog groomers.
  • Hotels could start taking advance bookings, but this would be “at risk” as no date for them to reopen safely has been agreed.
  • Outdoor retail, such as sales for cars and farm machinery can also reopen
  • Shops with a lower footfall such as those selling electronics or household furnishing should be able to reopen with social distancing in place. But only where those outlets have direct street access or direct access within a retail park.

The Economy Minister Diane Dodds is set to announce further information for businesses from next week.

Restrictions on meeting people from other households indoors, however, will remain in place but will be reconsidered on June 18.

“We know people will be disappointed by that, but I’m very grateful that we have such beautiful weather as people can see each other outside. Because we know that outside the virus does not stay around as long as inside,” Mrs Foster said.

“By making sacrifices the Northern Ireland public have enabled us to regain certain basic freedoms.”

Mrs Foster said it was necessary to give businesses notice to prepare, but that the new measures on June 8 could only take place if the R rating number used to determine the spread of the virus remains below one.

A contact tracing programme in Northern Ireland is already in place, and Mrs Foster said 99 Health and social care staff had been redeployed to the task.

She said 212 cases of Covid-19 have already been contact traced over seven days up to May 25, the equivalent of around 30 a day.

Further staff including nurses and environmental health officers will be recruited over a period of two years with health consultants responsible for the most complex work.


Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill

Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill

Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press E

Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill

Ms O’Neill called again for patience and said “the balanced approach” to lifting restrictions was working.

“The R rate is only just on the right side of one today, however we are making progress and we are going in the right direction.”

She warned that the recent easing of restrictions had already resulted in “a considerable shift in behaviour” and that is was up to the public to prevent a rise in Covid-19 cases.