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Coronavirus restrictions: Dates released as outdoor sports to return for larger groups before gyms and swimming pools reopen


Competitive outdoor sport can return later this month.

Competitive outdoor sport can return later this month.

Competitive outdoor sport can return later this month.

Outdoor team sports will be able to get back into full swing on April 23 (Friday week) thanks to the latest lifting of coronavirus restrictions across Northern Ireland.

The Stormont Assembly has confirmed that competitive sport will be allowed from that date, with numbers of those involved (including players, coaches etc) not exceeding 100.

During the strictest lockdown, only elite sport could be played, although since Monday, outdoor sport has been permitted for groups of up to 15, ruling out full-size competitive matches for sports such as GAA, soccer, rugby and hockey until April 23.

There will still be no spectators permitted to attend matches during the next phase, which for now rules out supporters attending the Irish Cup, which is due to kick-off with the first round on April 27.

The Irish FA will still hope there is some hope of further changes to restrictions, allowing fans in for the latter stages of the competition, although there is no indicative date and spectators are not due to return until step four of Stormont's plan to ease lockdown.

The semi-finals will kick-off at 4pm and 8pm respectively on Tuesday, May 18, with the decider three days later starting at 7.45pm. All three fixtures will take place at Glenavon's Mourneview Park due to preparations at Windsor Park for this summer's UEFA Super Cup.

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Indoor sports facilities such as gyms and swimming pools are set to reopen on April 30, ten days earlier than initially expected. That will be for individual exercise or for one-to-one, socially-distant work with personal trainers. Group classes will remain to be permitted only outdoors.

Meanwhile, sport can now recommence in schools across Northern Ireland, the Education Minister has told principals.

The guidance has been outlined in a letter to schools from Peter Weir as education moves to stage three of the pathway out of lockdown.

Other after-school clubs and activities are still not permitted under Covid restrictions.

“In relation to the provision of extra-curricular school sports, regulations have been amended to permit the resumption of outdoor extra-curricular schools’ sports with immediate effect,” Mr Weir said.

The minister added that there was no limit to the number of players or participants in after-school sports, but there needed to be an assurance that relevant safety measures were in place.

“Both indoor and outdoor PE continues to be permitted during normal school hours, however, it is recommended this should take place outdoors wherever possible,” Mr Weir said.

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