Fans given green light to return

Up to 1,000 fans will be allowed to attend this season's Irish Cup final after the Northern Ireland Executive agrees to further relax Covid-19 restrictions from May 24.

Thursday, 13th May 2021, 7:21 pm
Updated Thursday, 13th May 2021, 7:22 pm

Mourneview Park will host the showpiece final on Friday 21 May with fans set to attend a local football match for the first time since Saturday 19 December.

Larne will take on Crusaders and Linfield will face Ballymena United in the semi-finals, which will be played at the Lurgan venue on Tuesday 18 May.

The decision also means there will be fans allowed in to the final two Danske Bank Premiership fixtures on Tuesday 25 and Saturday 29 May after it was agreed up to 500 people can attend outdoor sport events as spectators from an indicative date of 24 May.

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Fans pictured at last season's Irish Cup final between Glentoran and Ballymena United

Fans will also be able to attend the end-of-season European play-offs.

Indoor sports training will be allowed to resume for sports squads from 24 May and schools will also be allowed to play sports fixtures against each other.

The Executive are expected to meet next Thursday to give the green light to all of today's announcements.

The Executive said the success of the vaccination programme allowed for the furthering easing of the restrictions.

In a statement, they said: "Thanks to the efforts of the public and the continued success of our vaccination programme, we are in a position to signal a further set of relaxations.

"We will be amending the Face Coverings Regulations to require mandatory wearing of face coverings in all indoor areas accessible by the public unless exempt.

"Guidance will be updated to provide examples of venues where face coverings must be worn and to take account of circumstances for individuals experiencing communication difficulties.

"Finally, we are also conscious that people want to see their family and friends again in less restricted circumstances. While there is an ongoing need to be cautious and careful, and to think about individual circumstances and scenarios, the Executive sees benefit in people being able to hug their loved ones.

"However, physical contact with others will always be associated with risk of transmitting the virus, and that risk will be greater when one or more of those involved has not been vaccinated.

"We ask everyone to take care of yourselves and each other and remember outdoors is generally safer than indoors."

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