LiveIt's official - this is the full list of Covid-19 easements agreed by the NI Executive today - 'There must be no mixing and matching of vaccines' says CMO Dr. Michael McBride

The Northern Ireland Executive has officially announced a raft of easements to Covid-19 restrictions including when the hospitality sector can begin to serve customers indoors and out.

Thursday, 15th April 2021, 6:23 pm

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First Minister Arlene Foster pictured inside the chamber this evening.

LIVE UPDATES: Coronavirus NI - It’s official - this is the full list of easements the NI Executive has agreed today

Last updated: Thursday, 15 April, 2021, 18:09

  • It's official - this is the full list of easements the NI Executive has agreed today
  • Executive's announcement concerning easing of Covid-19 restrictions put back one hour
  • ‘There must be no mixing and matching of vaccines’ says CMO Dr. Michael McBride
  • Proposed date for reopening NI hospitality a ‘mockery’ say Hospitality Ulster

It’s official - this is the full list of easements the NI Executive has agreed today

The Executive has today agreed a package of relaxations to the current Coronavirus Health Regulations.

From April 23:

  • Resumption of driving instruction and theory tests;
  • Driving testing can resume;
  • Re-opening of close contact services including training;
  • Re-opening of outdoor visitor attractions including outdoor activity centres;
  • Resumption of Equine Assisted Therapy and Learning (EATL) on an indoor and outdoor basis in gatherings of up to 30 people;
  • Outdoor sport organised by a club, individual or individuals affiliated will be extended to include squad training;
  • Competitive outdoor sport organised by a club, individual or individuals affiliated, with participant numbers not exceeding 100 and no spectators permitted can return and
  • Static band practice/rehearsal will be permitted in agreed outdoor locations.

From 30 April:

  • Increase the numbers permitted to gather in Domestic Setting Outdoors – to 15 people from no more than 3 households;
  • Reopen all of retail;
  • Reopen and permit overnight stays in self-contained tourist accommodation for one household only;
  • Reopen unlicensed premises, outdoors only with a maximum of 6 people from 2 households per table and contact details recorded;
  • Reopen licensed premises, including social clubs, outdoors only, limited to 6 people from no more than 2 households and contact details recorded;
  • Remove the curfew on takeaways;
  • Remove the curfew on off licences; and
  • Permit individual activities in gyms, swimming pools and other large venues – including with a carer and to allow 1-2-1 training/coaching with social distancing.

An indicative date of May 24 for:

  • Reopening unlicensed and licensed premises indoors with mitigations;
  • Reopening the remainder of Tourist accommodation;
  • Allowing visits indoors in domestic settings;
  • Reopening indoor visitor attractions; and
  • Resume indoor group exercise and training in numbers limited to suit the venue.

First Minister Arlene Foster said: “This is a landmark day for Northern Ireland as we step firmly and with confidence on our pathway to recovery.

“I am pleased and proud that through our collective efforts we have reached a point where we have established a good level of control over the virus.

“We are now entering brighter and better times.

“This balanced package of relaxations will restore those familiar aspects of everyday life that have been missed dearly.

“I urge everyone to stay with us and keep following the health advice so that we can continue with our plans to more fully open up our society over coming weeks.”

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said: “Today, the light at the end of the tunnel has just got a little bit brighter.

“This is a day of positive progress. We have agreed a significant package of easements which will make a fundamental difference to people’s lives and wellbeing.

“The restrictions have been a necessary response to the pandemic, to suppress the virus and save lives.

“But they have taken their toll on people right across our society. I’m delighted that we are now in a position to move forward, thanks to the efforts and sacrifices of the public and the success of our vaccination programme.

“We can all take comfort from this progress and look forward to doing the things that are important to us while keeping ourselves and others as safe as possible.”

The next formal review of the Coronavirus regulations under the Pathway out of Restrictions will be carried out on May 13, 2021.

No sign of Arlene Foster or Michelle O'Neill forces Speaker Alex Maskey to suspend assembly

The Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly, Alex Maskey, was left with no choice but to suspend a special sitting of the Covid-19 Ad-hoc committee on Wednesday evening as First Minister Arlene Foster and deputy First Minister, Michelle O’Neill had not arrived in the chamber.

Mrs. Foster and Ms. O’Neil were expected to brief MLAs on the easing of Covid-19 restrictions in the chamber at 3pm however this was put back to 4.15pm and then 5.00pm respectively.

The First and deputy First Ministers eventually arrived in the chamber where they began to brief MLAs shortly before 6pm.

Executive's announcement concerning easing of Covid-19 restrictions put back one hour

A special sitting at the Assembly has been pushed back as Stormont ministers continue to deliberate over a timetable for lifting lockdown restrictions.

Ministers are facing calls from hospitality industry representatives to bring forward proposed dates for the reopening of their sector.

A plan presented to ministers earlier on Thursday would have allowed licensed and unlicensed premises to serve customers in outdoor settings from May 10.

The resumption of indoor trading at pubs, cafes and restaurants, and the full reopening of hotels, is not intended to happen until June 1 at the earliest.

Economy Minister Diane Dodds is among those lobbying for those dates to be brought forward.

A special sitting of the Stormont Assembly where the relaxation dates are to be announced has been pushed from 3pm to 4.15pm.

Dozens of pupils sent home after positive COVID test at NI college

‘There must be no mixing and matching of vaccines’ says CMO Dr. Michael McBride

Everyone in Northern Ireland who received the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine as their first dose must receive it as their second dose and cannot request a different vaccine, the Chief Medical Officer for Northern Ireland, Dr. Michael McBride, has said.

Dr. McBride said any potential risk associated with the AstraZeneca jab is greatly outweighed by the benefits it bestows upon the vast majority of people who have received it.

“While no medicine or vaccine is without risk, the UK and EU regulators have again confirmed these are safe and effective vaccines and the benefits of vaccination outweigh any potential risk in the vast majority of people. 

“You must complete your second dose to get full protection.

“There must be no mixing and matching with Covid-19 vaccines.”

Earlier this week, the government in the Republic of Ireland limited the use of the AstraZeneca jab to people over the age 60 over fears concerning unusual blood clots with low blood platelets.

“Whatever your age, your first and second doses must be with the same vaccine.

“The only exception will be for the very small number of people who have extreme reactions to the first dose.

“Having your second dose will give you stronger and longer protection from COVID-19,” said Dr. McBride.

The United Kingdom government reviewed its use of the AstraZeneca vaccine when it announced last week that the jab would no longer be offered to those aged 30 and younger - this group will be offered an alternative vaccine.

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