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Northern Ireland roadmap out of lockdown: What is Stormont strategy?

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Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 2nd March 2021 Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 2nd March 2021 Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 2nd March 2021 Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye

The Northern Ireland Executive has agreed a five-step plan for easing Covid-19 restrictions across nine sectors of life and the economy.

The Executive’s lockdown roadmap – entitled Moving Forward: The Executive's Pathway Out of Restrictions - sets out the five-step sequencing to gradually lift restrictions on each of those sectors.

Unlike plans in the rest of the UK, Northern Ireland’s plan does not include any specific dates, instead using various factors of health data to judge the progress of the virus.

The health factors for easing the lockdown include the infection rate of the virus, known as the R number, the number of people in hospital, vaccine rollout and progress in testing and tracing positive cases.

Coronavirus Data Graphs

Unlocking will also depend on the potential emergence of new variants and the capacity in the health service to carry out non-Covid treatment.

Alongside health, the Executive said decisions would also be taken based on the mental health and wellbeing of those in the community, the education of young people and also the impact on businesses and employers.

There will also be a rolling review every four weeks, in line with how the regulations are currently reviewed. The first review is scheduled for March 16. The final review date is scheduled to be June 10. These are however subject to change.

Under the Executive’s plan, Primary 1 to Primary 3 school children will still return to school on March 8, with all other children scheduled to return after Easter.

Each of the nine sectors detailed in the plan will emerge from lockdown in specific stages. These stages are: lockdown; cautious first steps; gradual easing; further easing; and then preparing for the future.

The nine sectors in the plan include: home and community, sport and leisure, worship and ceremonies, education and young people, culture and entertainment, hospitality, work, retail and finally travel and tourism.

Detailed within each sector is the restrictions that will ease as Northern Ireland progresses through each step. The roadmap also gives examples of the types of activities that may be permitted at each point of the plan.

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Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 2nd March 2021 First Minister Arlene Foster and deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 2nd March 2021 First Minister Arlene Foster and deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye

Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 2nd March 2021 First Minister Arlene Foster and deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye

The Executive has faced criticism for it is plan, described as being "vague" and "clear as mud.

Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill, however, described the plan as “steady and sustainable” and said those wanting to move faster should “get real”.

“I think the pathway that has been published gives us a way out of the period of lockdown and gives us a way forward that mitigates against the danger of rolling back,” she told the BBC.

“The transmission of the virus is coming down, but it is coming down from a high base. The signs are all good, but that can quickly change.

“We are not going to give people false hope and false dawns around dates we can't deliver on.

“I feel like this is a very honest pathway out of the restrictions and gives us the best chance not to go into reverse.

“I understand the frustration of people. I am like everybody else, not seeing my family either."

She added: "We have set out a range of things we need to look at [before easing]. The ‘R’ remaining under one. The vaccination programme continuing at pace. The health service being under the capacity. We are in a good position at the moment, but we still are in danger.”

After the publication of the document on Tuesday, the First Minister Arlene Foster said it must be the “last lockdown” and suggested it is possible restrictions could be eased at a quicker pace, with her view that the DUP would have come up with a different plan.

Michelle O’Neill stressed that the plan was a “collective agreement” between all ministers and warned those who call for a quicker reopening to “get real”.

“The worst thing that could happen is that things are opened far too quickly and we end up in reverse in a matter of weeks," she said.

“I have never deviated or tried to alter the public health advice that has come forward. It is actually one party throughout the pandemic that has tried to push too far. Steady calm leadership is what is required.”

Home and Community

Step one:

Contact limited to own household and support bubble

Up to six from two households can meet outdoors not at a private dwelling

Step two:

Up to six people from two households can meet outdoors at a private dwelling

Up to 10 people from two households can meet outdoors not at a private dwelling

Stay at home messaging relaxed

Step three:

Up to six people from two households can meet indoors in a private dwelling

Increased numbers allowed for organised gatherings not at a private dwelling

Restricted numbers allowed indoors not at a private dwelling

Step four:

Up to 10 from two households can meet indoors and outdoors in private dwellings

No household limits on meeting outdoors not at a private dwelling

Overnight stays allowed

Increased numbers allowed indoors not at a private dwelling

Step five:

Households limits lifted in private dwellings

Organised outdoors gatherings are limited only by risk assessment and mitigations


Education and Young People

Step one:

School buildings closed except for vulnerable and key workers' children

Higher and Further Education students and apprentices - essential face-to-face learning permitted

Special schools, EOTAS (Education Other Than At School) and childcare open

Targeted youth services and interventions

Step two:

Partial return to classroom teaching

Remote and online learning remains an option

Partial return to practical face-to-face learning for Further Educations students and apprentices

Partial re-opening of generic youth services

Step three:

Full return to classroom teaching for schools

Wider range of outdoor learning has resumed

Extended Schools activity has resumed

Further re-opening of generic youth services

Step four:

Increased face-to-face teaching for HE and FE students, and apprentices

Inter-schools sport allowed

School clubs, FE colleges and university student extra-curricular and support activities and youth services resume

Step five:

FE colleges and universities moves towards more face-to face teaching

Spectators allowed at school sports and performance events


Work

Step one:

Remote working is the default position

Those who cannot work from home can attend work

Step two:

Relaxation of restrictions on workplace attendance

Working from home where possible remains the recommended approach

Step three:

Phased return to on-site work and office spaces

Seminars and meetings can take place

Step four:

Revised risk assessments allow more workplaces to reopen

Work conferences can resume

Step five:

Workplaces fully reopen


Retail

Step one:

Essential retail only

Non-essential retail is closed, including click-and-collect

All close contact services closed

Curfew on alcohol off-sales

Step two:

Click-and-collect for non-essential retail allowed

Driving lessons and tests can resume

Step three:

All non-essential retail now open

Off-sales curfew lifted

Close-contact services can resume, with mitigations

Step four:

All close-contact services open without appointments, with remaining mitigations

Increased in-store capacity in all retail

Step five:

All retail and close contact services open with reduced mitigations


Hospitality

Step one:

All hospitality closed, except for takeaway sales

23:00 GMT takeaway curfew

Step two:

Curfews lifted on takeaway

Premises where alcohol cannot be consumed open with table service, six people from two households

Step three:

Premises where alcohol can be consumed, excluding wet pubs, open with table service and only people from two households

Step four:

Wet pubs open with table service, six people from two households

Limited entertainment relaxations

Step five:

Bar service permitted in wet pubs

Six people from two households rule relaxed to any number

Live entertainment in hospitality venues

Nightclubs open


Worship and Ceremonies

Step one:

25 guest limit at civil partnerships, marriages and funerals

Pre and post-gatherings not permitted

Step two:

Return to services in places of worship with a risk assessment

Increased numbers at indoor and outdoor civil partnerships, marriages and funerals with a risk assessment

Step three:

Receptions can take place with mitigations and limited numbers

Pre and post-funeral gatherings can take place, with mitigations and limited numbers

Step four:

No upper limit on numbers for pre and post-gatherings for civil partnerships, marriages and funerals, determined by venue risk assessment

Limited live music at receptions

Step five:

Further mitigations relaxed for pre and post-gatherings for civil partnerships, marriages and funerals

Live music, entertainment and dancing at receptions


Sports and Leisure Activities

Step one:

Outdoor exercise with own household or one other person - stay in local area

Training and competition for elite athletes permitted

Step two:

Outdoor sports facilities re-open for training and organised group activities

Outdoor competitive sport can resume with no spectators

Step three:

Leisure centres and all indoor sports facilities reopen, including swimming pools and gyms

Indoor group activities and classes resume

Leisure activity venues reopen, including soft play

Step four:

Limited number of outdoor spectators allowed

Limited number of indoor spectators allowed

Step five:

Further outdoor spectators allowed

Further indoor spectators allowed


Culture, Heritage and Entertainment

Step one:

Indoor and some outdoor visitor attractions closed

All indoor seated venues closed

Theatres and concert venues open for rehearsal and recording

Step two:

All outdoor visitor attractions reopen

Step three:

Indoor visitor attractions, including heritage sites reopen

Libraries reopen

Low-risk activities including organised rehearsal and practice can take place

Step four:

Seated venues including theatres, concert venues and cinemas reopen

Amateur and youth performance activity can take place, with mitigations

Outdoor organised events can take place, with limited numbers

Step five:

Larger outdoor organised events, concerts and festivals can take place


Travel and Tourism

Step one:

Public transport with safety measures in place

All tourist accommodation closed, with exceptions

Essential travel only

Step two:

Public transport capacity increases in line with demand, within limits of social distancing requirements

Step three:

Caravan sites open, but shared facilities remain closed

Hotels, guest houses and B&Bs reopen, with mitigations

Public transport returns to full service, with mitigations

Step four:

Hostels, bunkhouses, campsites and other accommodation with shared facilities open

Campus accommodation for tourism purposes open

Hotels can offer wider range of services beyond accommodation and meals

Step five:

Public transport running at full service with reduced mitigations

Preparing for the full return of leisure travel.

Belfast Telegraph


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