Executive agrees to lifting of two more restrictions

The Northern Ireland Executive has agreed to ease a further two Covid-19 restrictions.

Friday, 23rd July 2021, 9:41 am

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Covid vaccines are being offered to some 17 year-olds in Northern Ireland.

LIVE UPDATES: Coronavirus NI - Executive agrees to lifting of two more restrictions

Last updated: Thursday, 22 July, 2021, 15:14

  • Executive agrees to lifting of two more restrictions
  • Supermarkets blame food shortages on ‘pingdemic’, Brexit and hot weather
  • NI Executive meeting today to decide on next steps as lockdown lifting continues
  • All eyes on DoH dashboard today after infections increased by almost 2,000 on Wednesday

NI Executive agrees to lifting of two more restrictions

The Stormont Executive has given the go ahead for two further relaxations of Covid-19 restrictions but has delayed final decisions on a series of other planned moves.

The PA news agency understands that from Monday a cap limiting the number of households allowed to participate in 15-person outdoor gatherings will be removed.

Close contact services will also be able to accept walk-in customers from Monday.

PA understands that ministers have agreed to meet again on Monday and Thursday next week to consider whether to press ahead with other relaxations that had originally been earmarked for next week.

On Monday, ministers will consider whether to give the green light to steps in Northern Ireland considered to be moderate risk.

Those include allowing theatres and concert halls to welcome back audiences – with some mitigation measures in place – and increasing the limit on gatherings in indoor domestic settings from six to 10, from no more than three households.

On Monday, ministers will also consider whether to lift current restrictions on MoT test centres.

If ministers agree to those measures it is understood they would come into effect immediately on Monday.

On Thursday next week, ministers will consider measures considered to be a higher risk.

Those include lifting restrictions on indoor live music, including a proposal to end a requirement for the sound to be kept to an ambient level.

On Thursday, ministers will also examine a proposal to end social-distancing requirements for outdoor activities and reduce the distance to one metre for indoor settings.

The legal requirement on wearing face coverings in places of worship is also set to be reviewed next week.

Supermarkets warning customers not to panic buy as hundreds of workers fall victim to ‘pingdemic’

Supermarkets have urged customers not to panic buy in response to reports of emptying shelves, saying they are continuing to receive regular deliveries - writes Josie Clarke, PA Consumer Affairs Correspondent.

The UK’s biggest supermarkets described any shortages as “patchy” across stores but said there was no need for customers to change their shopping habits.

They said any gaps on the shelves were temporary as they awaited deliveries, and were occurring in pockets rather than across supply chains.

The “pingdemic”, the shortage of HGV drivers and the hot weather were all contributing to delivery glitches, grocers said, while stressing to consumers that panic buying would create a problem that did not exist.

A Co-op spokesman said: “We are sorry that we are running low on some products. Like many retailers, we are impacted by some patchy disruption to our deliveries and store operations but we are working closely with our suppliers to get re-stocked quickly.”

A Sainsbury’s spokeswoman said: “We are working hard to ensure customers can find what they need.

“While we might not always have the exact product a customer is looking for in every store, large quantities of products are being delivered to stores daily and our colleagues are focused on getting them on to the shelves as quickly as they can.”

Iceland managing director Richard Walker has said staff absence rates are now double the usual number, with the figure rising 50% “week on week” due to people being told to self-isolate by the NHS app.

Mr Walker told the Radio 4’s Today programme: “We’ve now got over 1,000 staff off, who’ve been pinged. That’s double the normal rates, and it’s rising at 50% week on week.

“Our big concern is that we’ve kept all of our shops open throughout the pandemic, but now we have had to close one or two shops and reduce hours in others.

“But that could get a lot worse a lot quicker, unless the country’s system is sorted out.”

Mr Walker urged shoppers not to panic buy, saying: “There is certainly no problem with supply of stock.

“Panic-buying is only an option for those who can afford it and it often means that others go without.”

Elsewhere, sandwich chain Pret A Manger has temporarily closed 17 shops due to staff being forced to self-isolate.

The head of the British Retail Consortium, Helen Dickinson, has suggested rules around self-isolation could be amended for people working in food supply chains following rising levels of staff absence.

Ms Dickinson suggested to BBC Breakfast that bringing forward the date double-vaccinated people will not need to self-isolate if they come into contact with a Covid-19 case could be one solution.

“There are some pilots for tested release for businesses and people who get paid to test themselves and then released back into their workplace, those pilots could be extended or that could be a new system,” Ms Dickinson said.

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