Ministers had previously met and previously agreed that, dependent on the Covid situation, a number of relaxations would take effect from the end of October. These have now been rubber-stamped.
The new easements coming into force on Sunday are as follows:
*People can move around hospitality premises and indoor venues premises, including being able to stand to have a drink, eat food or watch a performance.
*Indoor dancing will be allowed.
*The need to maintain social distancing in hospitality settings, such as pubs and restaurants will move to guidance, although people are being to keep close face to face contact to a minimum at all times.
*Nightclubs can reopen.
In preparation for the further relaxation of restrictions in hospitality settings, engagement has been taking place with the sector on the practical application of remaining rules and mitigations. In a new development, the Executive has confirmed that face coverings can be removed when eating and drinking in any indoor setting and when dancing.
Ministers said in a statement: “As we move into the autumn and winter months, it is vitally important that we all continue to do what we can to make sure we protect ourselves and others from Covid-19. This will help keep transmission under control, help protect our health service, and allow us all to benefit from an autumn winter period with fewer restrictions in place than at any time during the pandemic.
“We are grateful to the vaccination teams for their efforts to drive up vaccination rates. The significant benefits of vaccination are evident. It protects the individual and those they are close to by helping to protect against hospitalisation and death. This in turn helps to reduce the pressure on the health service.
“The Covid-19 vaccination booster programme has now started and we would encourage everyone who is invited to receive their booster dose to take up the offer as soon as possible. While the booster programme has started, it isn’t too late for those who remain unvaccinated to take up the offer of vaccination for their first or second doses at any of the many participating community pharmacies.
“Together we can keep ourselves, and each other, safe. We would, therefore, again like to remind everyone of the small steps they can take to help stop Covid-19 from spreading: Get the vaccine when offered it; Wear a face covering in crowded or indoor settings; Wash your hands regularly, and cover your nose and mouth if coughing or sneezing; Self-isolate and take a PCR test if you have symptoms; Take regular tests if you don’t have symptoms to reduce the risk of spreading the virus; Meet outside if you can, and open windows when indoors; Keep your distance from people not in your group; and Work from home where practicable, or do a mixture of home and office working.