Coronavirus: NI’s top scientific official says meeting relatives indoors could be allowed within several weeks

Northern Ireland’s chief scientific advisor to the Department of Health says it is likely the public will be able to visit relatives indoors some time before July 20.

Professor Ian Young, chief scientific advisor to the Department of Health
Professor Ian Young, chief scientific advisor to the Department of Health

Prof Ian Young made the comments on BBC Radio Foyle’s Breakfast Show today.

It has now been confirmed that July 20 is the date when NI hotels will be permitted to open their doors again.

This mirrors the situation for hotels in the Republic.

It was put to him that if this is the date for hotels then it “stands to reason” that relatives should be able to meet indoors before that.

Prof Young said: “Everybody should now be aware that meetings indoors are associated with higher risk than with lower risk.

“But I think you’re right to say that if hotels had opened by the 20th of July, depending on the progress of the epidemic, that it’d be necessary to allow indoor meetings before then.”

He was also asked about the new guidance for people who are shielding (that is, people who were deemed “extremely vulnerable” and who should have had letters advising them to stay at home at all times and avoid all face-to-face contact for at least 12 weeks).

They will be allowed to go outside from June 8 (next Monday) in Northern Ireland.

Prof Young said: “The extremely vulnerable, the people who were shielding previously, still remain at risk from the virus if they catch it.

“But now the levels of circulating virus in the community are much lower the chances of somebody encountering somebody with the virus are a good deal less and it’s on that basis we’re able to make these cautious first steps.”

When it comes to his role in decision-making, the professor said: “I’m involved in providing the scientific advice.

“But the actual decisions around dates etc are made by the Executive.”

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