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Stormont ministers agree Covid-19 relaxations including reopening theatres

The rules will change at 6pm on Tuesday.


Theatres will be permitted to reopen from Tuesday (Paul Faith/PA)

Theatres will be permitted to reopen from Tuesday (Paul Faith/PA)

Theatres will be permitted to reopen from Tuesday (Paul Faith/PA)

Theatres and concert halls are to be allowed to reopen in Northern Ireland as part of the latest relaxations to Covid-19 rules.

Stormont ministers have also raised the number limit for gatherings in indoor domestic settings from six to 10 people, from no more than three households.

Wearing face coverings inside places of worship is also set to be changed from a mandatory requirement to guidance, while restrictions on how MOT vehicle tests are conducted are to be eased.

The steps are due to come into legal effect at 6pm on Tuesday.

Live music will be permitted for rehearsals and performances, with no restriction to background or ambient levels of volume.

Entry to theatre or concert performances for audiences will be by ticket only. Tickets must be purchased in advance of the performance.

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Audiences for indoor events must have allocated seating and remain seated; dancing is not permitted. Social distancing of one metre is required.

Up to 10 people from no more than three households will be allowed to meet in a home from 6pm on Tuesday. If one household has 10 members, the maximum is increased to 15 from no more than three households.

The requirement for the wearing of face coverings in places of worship, during acts of worship, will be moved from regulations to guidance.

Face coverings will still be legally required when entering and exiting the building and will be strongly advised while singing or moving around the premises.

In MOT centres, the vehicle can be shared by the examiner and customer for five minutes with both wearing a face covering.


Restrictions at MOT centres are to be eased (Liam McBurney/PA)

Restrictions at MOT centres are to be eased (Liam McBurney/PA)


Restrictions at MOT centres are to be eased (Liam McBurney/PA)

The requirement for vehicle examiners to wear face coverings at all times in the test hall will be removed.

The decisions were taken during a virtual Executive meeting on Monday afternoon.

Two relaxations agreed by ministers last week came into force on Monday.

A cap limiting the number of households allowed to participate in 15-person outdoor domestic gatherings was removed and close contact services, such as hairdressers, were able to accept walk-in customers.

The latest decisions, delayed from last week, were made after ministers were presented with more data on the link between positive cases and hospital admissions.

Ministers will convene again on Thursday to consider relaxations considered “higher risk”.

Those include the resumption of conferences and exhibitions and a proposal to end social distancing requirements for outdoor activities and reduce the distance to one metre for indoor settings.

At Monday’s Executive, ministers also discussed Northern Ireland’s waiting list crisis.

The region has the worst waiting list times in the UK.

There are currently more than 335,000 waiting for a first consultant-led appointment, with some facing waits of up to seven years for treatment.

The waiting lists have led to increased pressures on emergency departments across the region.

Those pressures have been exacerbated by increased numbers of Covid-19 admissions, and on Sunday two health trusts, Belfast and South Eastern, issued an emergency call for off-duty staff to come in to help deal with the worsening situation in hospitals.

A further 639 cases of Covid-19 were reported in Northern Ireland on Monday.

There were no new deaths notified by the Department of Health.

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