A number of minor relaxations to coronavirus regulations will be introduced in Northern Ireland from Monday, the Stormont Executive has confirmed.
These include allowing those who are shielding to spend time outside with people from their own household, or a person from another, as long as social distancing is observed.
The new rules will also see people permitted to leave home to attend to the welfare of animals, outdoor weddings with up to ten people, the reopening of outdoor sports facilities, and the reopening of outdoor non-food retail.
The Executive also said a decision on whether hotels and other tourist accommodation can reopen from July 20 will be taken closer to the time, dependent on virus transmission rates.
Ministers also agreed to change the definition of a key worker for parents requiring childcare to align with the definition currently used by schools accepting children.
A number of nurseries are set to reopen next week, taking in children of key workers.
The executive also agreed to formally introduce regulations to enforce the new UK-wide quarantine policy.
From Monday, people arriving in Northern Ireland from outside the UK and Ireland’s Common Travel Area will have to self-isolate for 14 days, with those not complying liable to a maximum fine of £1,000.
Those who arrive into a port or airport in the Irish Republic from outside the Common Travel Area and then travel north will also be subject to the same regulations.
The death of one more person with coronavirus in Northern Ireland was announced on Thursday, taking the total recorded by the Department of Health – a toll that primarily accounts for hospital deaths – to 535.
There were another 33 confirmed cases of the virus, bringing the total since the outbreak began to 4,773.
First Minister Arlene Foster said the decisions on the latest relaxations were taken following scientific and medical advice, but warned Covid-19 is still circulating in the community.
“That’s why it is important that people continue to restrict their activities in public and exercise their rights proportionately and responsibly, adhering to the guidelines on social distancing and good hand hygiene,” she said.
“We have only been able to make these relaxations because the public have followed the advice and flattened the curve of infection, protected the health service and saved many lives.
“It is important that we all stick to the course now, so that further relaxations can be made in the future.”
Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said the Executive had received “positive news” about the R number.
“Last week the R number was at 0.9. We said we would move forward to further ease the restrictions providing the R rate did not rise above that position and today we had positive news,” she said.
“This has allowed us to make good on our intention to introduce further relaxations from the beginning of next week.”
Ms O’Neill added: “We know this has been a difficult and lonely time for many people who have isolated themselves for their own protection, and they can now look forward next week to meeting outdoors in limited circumstances and having a chance to reconnect with loved ones.”