The full package of new Covid-19 measures approved by the Northern Ireland Executive has been revealed.
It will come into effect on December 11, after the end of its strict two-week circuit breaker.
Shops, hairdressers, restaurants, houses of worship and hotels are among the places that could reopen. Bars that sell only drinks (wet bars) will remain closed and an additional financial package will be placed.
The CEO also approved the home Christmas arrangements December 23-27, when three families can meet together in home environments, outdoor public spaces, and places of worship.
A household will be able to include a family bubble.
The CEO has agreed that the following can be opened:
- Non-essential businesses, including retail and close contact services to include driving coaches.
- Bars and private member’s clubs serving a main or basic meal prepared in their own kitchen; Restaurants and cafes. Contact details must be taken from all clients. The mitigations that were previously required will remain in place. Food and drink can be purchased until 10:30 PM but cannot be taken in the building after 11 PM, and all persons must vacate the venue by 11 PM.
- Hotels and guest houses. Previously required mitigations will remain in place, including food and drink restrictions.
- Gyms, swimming pools and plunge pools can open for individual training, personal trainer and non-aerobic classes for up to 15 people. Contact details must be taken.
- Outdoor events and gatherings, subject to a risk assessment in the event of more than 15 attendees and measures to reduce the risk of virus transmission with a maximum of 500 participants.
- Sporting events, are subject to a risk assessment if more than 15 people attend and measures are taken to reduce the risk of virus transmission. The maximum permitted capacity is 500 spectators. Competitive sporting events between schools are not permitted.
- Outdoor exercise in groups of a maximum of 15.
- Places of worship.
- External and indoor visitor attractions, museums, galleries, and libraries.
The following must remain closed:
- Wet bars and private member clubs do not serve a main or large meal. Sales are permitted until 10:30 PM. This applies to sales, supermarkets, and hospitality places that sell alcohol.
- Concert halls and theaters except for rehearsals and recordings.
- Night clubs.
The executive body also approved the following:
- The current arrangements for gatherings in cottage and private residences will remain the same today, except for temporary arrangements during the Christmas period.
- Civil marriages and partnerships are permitted, subject to the risk assessment figures determined by the place of worship or place. The mitigations that were previously required will remain in place.
- Wedding ceremonies and civic partnerships will continue and the number of attendees will be determined by place of worship or venue.
- Attendees and the funeral director / operator must comply with funeral directives issued by the Ministry of Health.
- No vacation in groups outside of the locale rules – this applies to places, such as self-catering chalets, which can seat large numbers.
First Minister Arlene Foster said: “Through our collective efforts in recent weeks, we have secured sufficient space in virus transmission to ease a plethora of restrictions, including opening unnecessary retail stores, close contact services, sports and entertainment. Activities and places of worship next weekend.” .
These decisions will give families, businesses, and employees some much-needed certainty and comfort in the run-up to and beyond Christmas.
“This is a special time of the year and we want to support people to have a happy birthday, but also a safe birthday.
“Significant work has been done with business, religious groups, local government and police on new mitigation measures to reduce the risk of transmission.
“I urge everyone to be aware of Covid and to make careful and reasonable decisions when going out or socializing. We need to make sure that we continue to do everything we can to protect ourselves and our loved ones.”
Deputy Prime Minister Michael O’Neill said: “The Executive wants to give people as much notice as possible about what the situation will look like starting next Friday when the current circuit breaker ends.
“We have looked in detail at what restrictions must be maintained, and what we can unlock, in light of scientific and medical advice.
“A package of measures has been agreed that will see a significant relaxation of the current restrictions, while applying maximum mitigation to reduce the risks as much as possible. An additional support package will be put in place for traditional bars serving drinks only which unfortunately will not be able to reopen at this time.
“We appreciate how important Christmas time is for many families, and the CEO has approved arrangements that will allow families and friends to meet in a limited way between December 23-27.
“It is important for people to understand that with any increase in contact, the stakes increase. Everyone needs to think carefully about the risks they, and their loved ones, are exposed to by meeting together during the Christmas period, particularly those who are vulnerable. Some may choose not to form a birthday bubble. Christmas but for those who do, we encourage them to keep their bubbles small and limit the number of people gathered, as much as possible. “
Details of arrangements for the celebration of Christmas can be found at: www.nidirect.gov.uk/coronavirus-christmas.
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