COVID: Indoor concerts and theatre entertainment return today ; Masks optional at church services in Northern Ireland

Theatres and concert halls are to reopen from today while masks will be optional during church services after the NI Executive gave the go ahead for a range of new relaxations.

Tuesday, 27th July 2021, 9:45 am

The Executive last night agreed a raft of new relaxations to the Covid-19 restrictions and received further advice from our health and scientific advisers.

The Executive has decided that the following easements will come into effect from 6pm today, July 27.

Concert Venues, Theatres and Other Indoor Venues will be allowed to welcome back audiences for performances.

Many theatres and concert halls have lain empty for over a year.

Live music will be permitted for rehearsals and performances, with no restriction to background or ambient levels of volume.

Entry to performances for audiences will be by ticket only. Tickets must be purchased in advance of the performance.

Audiences for indoor events must have allocated seating and remain seated (unless using facilities) and are not permitted to dance.

Social distancing of 1 metre will be required.

However such events for other indoor facilities contained within larger premises, for example, function rooms of hotels are not included in these decisions.

Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey welcomed the Executive’s announcement that theatres and indoor concert settings can reopen to audiences.

Minister Hargey said: “I welcome today’s news that these venues can now safely reopen. I expect all venue promoters to have safety measures in place to ensure that staff and audiences are in a Covid safe environment. I believe that equality of access to the arts, be that through participation or as a member of the audience, is crucial and I look forward to attending a performance in the time ahead.”

“I recently established a Culture, Arts & Heritage Recovery Taskforce to advise on measures to support reopening and recovery in the short-term as these important sectors emerge from the pandemic. I am grateful to them for their expert advice which I brought to the Executive table today.

“The huge part that the arts play in our lives has come into sharp focus through the closure of theatres, concert halls and other venues during the pandemic with the necessary cancellation of so many performances.

“When these venues suffer so does our economy as they employ thousands of staff directly and indirectly, they help boost tourism and also work to support our hospitality sector.”

In terms of homes, up to ten people from no more than three households will be allowed to meet in a home.

If one household has ten members, the maximum is increased to 15 from no more than three households. Children 12 and under are not included.

The requirement for the wearing of face coverings in places of worship, during acts of worship, will be moved from regulations into guidance only. Face coverings will still be legally required when entering and exiting the building and will be strongly advised whilst singing or moving around the premises.

In terms of MOT Centres the vehicle can now be shared by the examiner and customer for five minutes with both wearing a face covering, for the most part the customer will be diagonally opposite the examiner while the vehicle is being driven and the examiner conducts the brake roller test. However, for the small number of two seat vehicles, the customer will be side by side with the examiner with both wearing a face covering.

The requirement for vehicle examiners to wear face coverings at all times in the test hall will be removed as this increases the risk of trips and slips in a semi-industrial environment.

Customers will be permitted to be seated safely in the test hall for approximately eight minutes, socially distanced and wearing a face covering, while the underbody inspection of the vehicle is being conducted.

The Executive said more measures will be discussed on Thursday “when we expect to have a clearer picture of the link between cases and subsequent hospitalisation”.

“We urge everyone who can, to please get both doses of the vaccine as soon as possible to help protect yourself and others. Information is available at www.nidirect.gov.uk/covidvaccine as to where you can walk in for a jab or book an appointment.

“As always, we also ask everyone to continue following the public health advice to help keep yourself, and everyone else, safe.”