Return of live music, concerts and theatre on agenda as Executive meets
The return of live music, the reopening of theatres and concert halls and the return of exhibitions and conferences is expected to be approved by the Northern Ireland Executive today.
The Executive is scheduled to meet to consider the next step out of lockdown for Northern Ireland after earlier reopening plans were postponed amid concerns about the spread of the Delta variant of coronavirus.
The reopening phase, which had originally been planned for June 21 but will now begin on Monday if approved later today, will see live music permitted indoors but with constraints in place on volume level and a ban on dancing maintained.
Rules restricting outdoor gatherings – crucial for the events sector – are also due to be altered if the plan is approved.
This comes after UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid earlier this week confirmed the plan to bring all lockdown restrictions in England to an end on July 19.
No such date to dispense with lockdown restrictions entirely has been set in Northern Ireland.
In the Republic of Ireland, meanwhile, there have been calls from the National Public Health Emergency Team for the reopening of the hospitality industry indoors to be pushed back until July 19 until a system to prove vaccination or immunity status can be put in place. As things stand, indoor hospitality is set to resume in the Republic of Ireland from Monday.
The next reopening step for Northern Ireland comes amid fresh calls for young people to take up the offer of vaccination, amid fears of another surge of cases this summer fuelled by the Delta variant.
Chief Medical Officer Professor Sir Michael McBride, alongside Chief Scientific Adviser Professor Ian Young, addressed their appeal to the under-30s.
“Vaccination was extremely important before the Delta variant of Covid-19. It is all the more important now, with the variant circulating in NI in increasing numbers,” the chief medic said.
“I again urge younger people to get their jabs without delay, and would appeal to their parents to encourage them to do so. The right time to get the jab is right now.
“As modelling information already in the public domain has indicated, we are facing the potential of a significant Covid-19 surge by the end of summer, if not sooner.”
Professor Young added: “I know some people will question how Covid can still be such a threat when our vaccination programme has gone so well.
“While the Covid-19 vaccines are clearly effective, no vaccine in history has ever been 100% effective in 100% of cases.”
The latest figures from the Department of Health show another 375 confirmed cases of the virus, with 20 people in hospital and two in intensive care. There were no new deaths reported.