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What are the rules going to the pub, will you need a Covid passport and when are nightclubs reopening?

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Northern Ireland’s rules are set to change, after the First and deputy First Ministers announced a series of relaxations to the current restrictions.

The changes have been welcomed by the hospitality industry, with many of the relaxations focusing on pubs, restaurants and nightclubs.

The latest changes to the restrictions follow on from Boxing Day last month, when rules around table service in bars and restaurants was tightened and nightclubs were closed due to the Omicron variant.

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What will the rules be in pubs and restaurants from Friday?

When you go into a bar or restaurant for a Friday night meal or pint after work, there will be some significant changes following the Executive announcement that changes would take effect from noon.

Unlike in recent weeks, it will no longer be a requirement to only be joined by six others at a table – meaning larger parties and events will be able to go ahead.

Customers will also no longer be required to be seated whilst consuming food and drink, such as in a restaurant setting. While if you go to a pub, you’ll no longer expect to be seated, with rules around table service removed.

When can I visit a nightclub?

Nightclubs are currently closed in Northern Ireland and have been so since Boxing Day. However, following the announcement by the Executive, those looking for a dance will be able to do so from Wednesday, January 26.

Nightclubs can reopen from noon on that date, with dancing and indoor standing events also able to resume.

Will I need a Covid passport to get access?

According to the latest changes, proof of Covid status will no longer be legally required in hospitality premises from January 26. This will apply to the likes of bars, restaurants and cinemas.

However, the Executive said people wanting to gain access to a nightclub will still be required to use the vaccine certificate system.

They also said it will continue to apply to indoor unseated or partially seated events with 500 people or more.

How many people will I be able to have in my house?

The latest rule changes mean that from Friday this week guidance around the numbers of households allowed in a domestic indoor setting will be removed. Presently it was guidance that only three households could mix in such a setting.

The Executive said however that maximum numbers of 30 people from any amount of households gathering in domestic settings will be retained in regulation.

Do I still need to wear a face covering?

There are no changes to the general use of face coverings and they remain required in all indoor settings accessible to the public across Northern Ireland.

This includes shops, shopping centres, public, private and school transport services, taxis, airplanes, public transport stations and airports, banks, cinemas, and some government offices.

However, the Executive confirmed in the latest raft of relaxations that the requirement to provide proof of exemption will be removed and the reasonable excuse of “severe distress” for those who cannot wear one will be reintroduced.

Should I expect to have to return to the office?

At present in Northern Ireland the advice remains to work from home where possible.

As part of the latest restriction changes, the Executive announced the guidance around working from home will revert to working from home where you can, with employers encouraged to facilitate this.

What else could change in the coming weeks?

The next key date in Northern Ireland's journey through the pandemic is February 10, when the Executive will meet again to discuss the remaining restrictions.

According to the Executive, on this date ministers will look at a range of issues including the requirements around face coverings, the need for venues to carry out risk assessments and the legal requirements around the Covid vaccine passport.



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