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Changes to covid restrictions in Northern Ireland

Ministers have agreed a number of changes to Northern Ireland’s coronavirus restrictions, including changes to social distancing, rules around vaccine passports and the full reopening of the hospitality industry.

What are the rules?

From 14 October, the limit allowing up to 15 people from no more than four households to meet in a private home will be removed.

Restrictions will remain in place to prevent gatherings of 30 people or more in domestic settings.

Social distancing

Social distancing is one of a number of measures that can help to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Other mitigations include good ventilation, the use of protective screens and face coverings, as well as increased cleaning and handwashing.

The closer you are to others, the higher the risk. The risk of transmission is therefore higher at one metre compared to two metres. The level of risk also increases if there are no mitigations in place.

Other factors that affect risk include location (indoors or outdoors), direction (whether you are face-to-face or back-to-back) and time (duration).

The highest risk is in an indoor, crowded, poorly-ventilated space for a long period of time.

Indoor gatherings (excluding private homes)

To determine the maximum number of people permitted to attend an indoor gathering, in a non-domestic setting, the organiser or operator must carry out a risk assessment.

Indoor gatherings of 15 people or fewer do not need a risk assessment.

The organiser must also take all reasonable measures to limit the risk of transmission of the coronavirus.

A person responsible for organising a gathering must, if requested to do so by a relevant person, provide:

  • a copy of the risk assessment

and

  • an account of the reasonable measures taken

It is important that indoor spaces are well ventilated at all times, by leaving doors and windows open. Frequently touched surfaces, such as door handles, should be cleaned regularly.

Where possible, you should maintain social distancing, as well as good hand and respiratory hygiene practices.

Outdoor gatherings (excluding homes)

To determine the maximum number of people permitted to attend an outdoor gathering, in a non-domestic setting, the organiser or operator must carry out a risk assessment.

Outdoor gatherings of 30 people or fewer do not need a risk assessment.

The organiser must also take all reasonable measures to limit the risk of transmission of the coronavirus.

A person responsible for organising a gathering must, if requested to do so by a relevant person, provide:

  • a copy of the risk assessment

and

  • an account of the reasonable measures taken

Where possible, you should maintain social distancing, as well as good hand and respiratory hygiene practices.

When travelling to large events you should walk, cycle or use private transport, shared only with members of your household where possible.

Travel

You should avoid visiting places where there is a chance that large numbers of people will gather and crowds will form.

If you go somewhere and there are crowds which will make social distancing difficult, consider going somewhere else instead.

When travelling you should walk, cycle or use private transport, shared only with members of your household where possible.

Guidance for travelling both internationally and within the Common Travel Area during the COVID-19 pandemic can be found at:

Face coverings

The use of face coverings is mandatory on public transport, in taxis, private buses, coaches and on aircraft, in train and bus stations and in airports unless an exemption applies. This includes:

  • boarding any mode of public transport
  • when on board any mode of public transport

and

  •  when present on public transport premises or stops

Hospitality

Hospitality venues (cafes, restaurants, bars, pubs, social clubs, including in members’ clubs) are permitted to open and live music is permitted.

Food and drink must only be consumed while seated at tables indoors.

Venues are required to collect customer details to help with the Test, Trace, Protect contact tracing programme.

Customer details will include the:

  • name and telephone number of each visitor over the age of 16
  • date and time of arrival

Face coverings must be worn if you leave your table (to pay, to access toilet facilities, play darts, pool or gaming machines), unless exempt.

A person responsible for a hospitality business must take reasonable measures to ensure that social distancing measures are maintained at all times to limit the risk of transmission of the coronavirus. This includes hospitality settings within other indoor venues.

Further advice and guidance is available at:

From 31 October, people will be allowed to move around hospitality premises and indoor venues, including being able to stand to have a drink, eat food or watch a performance.

The legal requirement to maintain social distancing in hospitality settings, such as pubs and restaurants will move to guidance.

The restriction on indoor dancing will be lifted and nightclubs will be permitted to reopen.

Entertainment, leisure activities and cultural attractions

Outdoor and indoor visitor attractions are permitted to open (including theatres, concert halls and other seated indoor venues) and are subject to the requirements on gatherings to determine the maximum numbers permitted access.

You must wear a face covering when you go to any indoor public space, unless exempt.

Venues will be required to collect customer details to help with the Test, Trace, Protect contact tracing programme.

Customer details will include the:

  • name and telephone number of each visitor over the age of 16
  • date and time

The legal requirement to socially distance in indoor seated venues such as theatres, concert halls and cinemas has been removed, however additional mitigating measures are recommended, including:

  •  proof of being fully vaccinated

or

  •  proof of a negative lateral flow rapid test

or

  • proof of natural immunity from a positive PCR test taken in the previous 30 to180 days

The use of additional mitigations is very important in the absence of social distancing to limit the risk of transmission of the coronavirus.

Live music events (indoor and outdoor), without restriction to volume levels, must be effectively controlled and managed.

If the event is taking place in a venue that is part of larger premises (for example, a hotel) it must be sufficiently isolated to make sure the volume of music in the venue does not breach ambient levels in other parts of the premises.

Audiences for indoor events must be seated and guests must remain seated, (unless using facilities). Dancing is not permitted for audience members.

Further advice and guidance is available at https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/campaigns/coronavirus-covid-19

 


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