NI Executive: Rules on face masks, nightclubs, dancing, gatherings to change

The Northern Ireland Executive has agreed an approach for relaxing the measures put in place to manage the COVID-19 Omicron variant.

By Brendan McDaid
Thursday, 20th January 2022, 5:17 pm

From 12pm tomorrow, Friday, January 21, the requirement to be seated in cafes, pubs, restaurants and other hospitality venues that serve alcohol and for table service will be removed, as will the rule of six.

In domestic settings the cap on the number of households meeting indoors will be lifted, while proof of exemption for face coverings will be removed and the reasonable excuse of ‘severe distress’ will be reintroduced.

The guidance on working from home will revert to working from home where you can.

First Minister Paul Givan and Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill speaking to the media during a visit to Ebrington Square on Thursday morning. Photo: George Sweeney. DER2203GS – 013

The minimum self-isolation period for people testing positive for COVID-19 will be reduced to five full days, subject to negative lateral flow tests on days five and six of isolation.

Then from next Wednesday, January 26 at 12 noon nightclubs will be permitted to open, and dancing and indoor standing events can resume.

“In relation to COVID-status certification – the legal requirement will continue to apply in relation to nightclubs and indoor unseated or partially seated events with 500 people or more. For other settings where COVID status certificates are currently required, guidance would strongly encourage their continued use.

“In workplaces - the requirement for offices to take reasonable measures for 2m social distancing will be removed. Guidance remains in place that risk assessments should be carried out.”

All remaining COVID measures including the legal requirement to wear face coverings will be reviewed by the Executive on February 10.

The Executive praised the ongoing efforts of the public to limit the spread of the virus.

A spokesperson said: “By making safer choices we can all continue to play our part in the wider societal effort to keep ourselves and other safe. The measures put in place in response to Omicron were a balanced and proportionate intervention based on the best available evidence. However, the improved outlook on hospital pressures allows us to relax some restrictions within the next week.”

Ministers were updated by the Chief Medical Officer and Chief Scientific Advisor, who have confirmed that we are likely to be past the peak in case numbers, although it remains possible that case numbers may rebound somewhat due to the return of schools.

Hospital admissions and COVID bed occupancy have peaked and are beginning to fall slowly.