Social distancing down to one metre, no face coverings in places of worship and classrooms and quarantine exemption confirmed

The Northern Ireland Executive has agreed to an array of changes to Covid-19 restrictions including reducing social distancing to one metre and lifting a face covering mandate in places of worship and classrooms.

Thursday, 8th July 2021, 8:09 pm

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The changes rest on final approval which the Executive will carry out on July 22.

LIVE UPDATES: Coronavirus NI - Stormont ministers agree series of relaxations for July 26

Last updated: Thursday, 08 July, 2021, 16:46

Stormont ministers agree series of relaxations for July 26

Stormont ministers have provisionally agreed to introduce a further series of Covid-19 relaxations in Northern Ireland on July 26 - writes David Young, PA.

The PA news agency understands that measures pencilled in for that date include the end of social distancing requirements for outdoor activities and a reduction of the distance to one metre for relevant indoor settings.

In regard to international travel, from July 26 people returning from amber list countries who have been fully vaccinated in the UK will not have to self-isolate on arrival in Northern Ireland or take a test eight days after their return. A test on day two of return will still be required.

Theatres and concert halls will be allowed to welcome back audiences on July 26, with some mitigation measures in place, and conferences and exhibitions will be able to resume.

Ministers agreed the proposals at Thursday’s executive meeting.

For most of the measures, July 26 is an indicative date and will be subject to Executive ratification on July 22.

Under the latest planned relaxations, a limit on gatherings in indoor domestic settings would increase from six to 10.

A 15-person cap on the size of outdoor domestic gatherings will remain but a five-household limit would be removed.

Household bubbling provisions in the rules are also to be dropped.

Other moves earmarked for the end of the month include allowing close contact services to accept walk-in customers.

The legal requirement to wear face coverings in places of worship is also set to be removed on July 26.

In terms of schools, classroom bubbling and the use of face masks in classes are to be removed from guidance.

Current restrictions on how MoT tests are carried out in Northern Ireland are also to be relaxed.

Restrictions on indoor live music are set to be eased on July 26, including an end to a requirement for the sound to be kept to an ambient level.

The decision on the full return of live music and dancing at events has been deferred until August.

Other proposals due to be considered in August include the removal of rules around all face coverings – with regulations potentially replaced by guidance – and the complete removal of social distancing requirements.

In August, ministers will also discuss removing all restrictions on funerals; ending contact tracing requirements; removing self-isolating requirements; scrapping the need to carry out Covid-19 risk assessments; removing all other coronavirus international travel restrictions and the Covid-19 guidance on travel within the Common Travel Area.

Fully vaccinated people to be exempt from quarantine when they return from Spain, Italy, France and other amber list countries

People in Northern Ireland who have received two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine could be exempt from mandatory quarantine when they return from Spain, Italy, France and all other countries contained in the amber list.

The Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps, MP, is set to announce a similar change to the travel restrictions in England and it is understood that the Northern Ireland Executive will approve he same advice and guidance.

The current rules for people travelling to Northern Ireland from a country or other location included in the amber travel list are as follows:

- Must self-isolate for 10 days

- Provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test result taken up to three days before departure.

- Book post arrival testing and complete aUK passenger locator form either on arrival, or in the 48 hours before arrival.

The news comes on the same day the Northern Ireland Executive is set to officially announce its next indicative date for the lifting of Covid-19 restrictions.

The Executive is set to meet on Thursday afternoon during which time it will discuss the potential scrapping of mandatory face-coverings in places of worship, live music indoors and the reopening of theatres and exhibitions.

It is believed the Executive will announce Monday July 26 as the indicative date for the latest easing of restrictions.

The Executive is also believed to be considering allowing up to 10 people from two households to meet-up indoors.

More information is expected later this afternoon.

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