Coronavirus Q&A: What has and has not changed in NI lockdown?

All shops in Northern Ireland can reopen from FridayImage copyright
Pacemaker

 

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All shops in Northern Ireland can reopen from Friday

When lockdown was first introduced in Northern Ireland at the end of March, it saw a raft of new restrictions introduced on every day life.

In the past couple of weeks many of those measures have been eased, but others remain in place.

In some areas dates have been given for when changes will be introduced, while in others there is less clarity.

Here is a breakdown of what you can and cannot do under the current set of lockdown guidelines.

Meeting up

  • From Saturday 13 June, people living alone in NI will be able to stay at one other household, in a so-called “support bubble”. The relaxation does not apply to those who are shielding
  • Groups of up to 10 people who do not live together can meet outdoors from Friday – a rise from groups of six
  • The 2m (6ft) social distancing rule still remains in place when you do meet up, except for people in a “support bubble”
  • Since 8 June, people who are shielding have been able to meet with one person from another household, while maintaining social distancing

Travel

  • People are allowed to travel as far as they want within Northern Ireland and journeys can be made for any reason – not just for “essential” purposes
  • Passengers on public transport are advised to wear face coverings, but this is not mandatory
  • The rules on travelling outside Northern Ireland are less clear, but the Republic of Ireland’s rules mean people can travel anywhere within their home county or up to 20km from home if crossing county borders. As for travelling to other parts of the UK – you’re not allowed to stay overnight in another household and hotels aren’t open
  • Anyone arriving in Northern Ireland – whether flying into one of its three commercial airports or arriving in the Republic of Ireland and travelling north – is required to self-isolate for 14 days. The only exemptions are for those arriving from somewhere else in the Common Travel Area, which is made up of the UK, Republic of Ireland, Isle of Man and Channel Islands
  • This includes people who are returning home to Northern Ireland from abroad, so if you go on holiday to, for example, Spain, you’ll need to self-isolate for 14 days on your return

Weddings and funerals

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Pacemaker

 

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Paddy and Rebecca Smyth finally tied the knot on the fourth attempt at Cregagh Presbyterian church in east Belfast
  • Outdoor weddings with 10 people present have been allowed since 8 June
  • While funeral services are still going ahead in Northern Ireland, government guidance limits the number of mourners to 10

Shopping

  • A number of shops did not have to shut down at all during lockdown, such as food retailers, takeaway restaurants, dry cleaners and – after some initial confusion – off-licences. The rules around those shops remain unchanged
  • Garden centres were allowed to open from late May, while large stores and shops in retail parks were able to resume trading on 8 June
  • From Friday 12 June, all shops will be allowed to open again
  • The property market will resume from Monday, 15 June, allowing house sales to take place

Sports/gyms

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Pacemaker

 

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Golf was one of the first sports allowed to resume
  • From Monday 15 June, elite athletes will be able to resume training outdoors
  • Golf courses and tennis courts reopened at the end of May, along with angling
  • Gyms remain closed and there is not yet a timetable for them to reopen. Indoor leisure facilities are included in phase four of the executive’s plan, but this is not accompanied by a date

Childcare

  • The executive has agreed to allow church halls and community centres to open from Friday 12 June to facilitate childcare for people who will have to return to work
  • Ministers are carrying out work on reopening the childcare sector, with more details to be announced after discussions with the Department of Health on Friday
  • At present, only vulnerable children and children of key workers can avail of childcare, but last week the definition of a key worker was expanded, as more sectors of the economy begin to reopen

Pubs and restaurants

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  • Restaurants are able to offer takeaway food and delivery services
  • There is no date yet for when pubs and restaurants will be able to offer indoor service, but Economy Minister Diane Dodds told the assembly on Thursday she has had “extensive discussions” with the hospitality and tourism sectors and hopes to bring a paper to the executive next week on this issue

Hotels, holiday homes and caravans

  • Hotels and tourist accommodation in Northern Ireland will be allowed to reopen on 20 July – but Mrs Dodds wants this date to be brought forward, to match the opening date of 29 June in the Republic of Ireland
  • It is not yet clear whether bars, restaurants and other facilities in hotels in Northern Ireland will be allowed to open to residents from 20 July
  • Holiday parks, self-catering properties and caravan parks may open earlier than 20 July, according to the economy minister, but there has been no further update on this

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