Northern Ireland

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

All shops in Northern Ireland can reopen from Friday Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Shops in Northern Ireland were allowed to reopen from 3 July

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 23 June, people who do not live together have been able to meet indoors in groups of up to six. This does not apply to people who are shielding
  • People living alone in NI can stay at one other household overnight, in a so-called "support bubble". This does not apply to people who are shielding
  • The 2m (6ft) social distancing rule was reduced to 1m from 29 June with some conditions in place
  • It was also announced on 29 June that up to 30 people would be allowed to gather together outdoors
  • Since 8 June, people who are shielding have been able to meet with one person from another household, while maintaining social distancing
  • From 6 July, shielders have been able to meet up to five other people outside, and those shielding alone will were able to form a support bubble with one other household
  • The shielding advice is set to be paused from 31 July, and those who were told to self-isolate will no longer need to shield but should, instead, take particular care when out and about - and strictly maintain 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
  • The wearing of face coverings on most buses, trains and ferries is mandatory in Northern Ireland from 10 July
  • There are exemptions for those with medical conditions: It will not apply to children under the age of 13, or on school transport
  • All restrictions for travelling within the Republic of Ireland were lifted on 29 June. There is no date set yet for people to be allowed to travel abroad again
  • From 10 July, anyone arriving in Northern Ireland from more than 50 countries including France, Spain, Germany and Italy are now no longer required to quarantine
  • From 20 July, there will be a phased return of MoT and driver testing services with priority for taxis and buses that are due a first time test, and vehicles not previously registered in NI

Weddings, baptisms and funerals

Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Paddy and Rebecca Smyth finally tied the knot on the fourth attempt at Cregagh Presbyterian church in east Belfast
  • Indoor marriage ceremonies and baptisms resumed in places of worship from Friday 10 July
  • Indoor marriage and civil partnership services resumed in local government offices and other venues from 10 July
  • It is up to venues to carry out a risk assessment to determine how many people can safely attend services
  • Outdoor weddings with 10 people present have been allowed since 8 June
  • On 2 July, government guidance said it was permissible for funeral services to be conducted in a place of worship or in a funeral home. The size of the venue determines the maximum number that can safely attend while observing 2m social distancing, wherever possible
  • However, the number of mourners at the graveside, or the front of the City of Belfast Crematorium, is limited to 30, with social distancing being practised
  • Places of worship were able to reopen on a wider basis from 29 June, after initially only permitting individual prayer and drive-in services

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 other shops were allowed to open again, except betting shops which can reopen from 3 July
  • The property market reopened on Monday, 15 June, which allowed house sales to take place
  • From 3 July, betting shops were allowed to reopen
  • From 6 July, hairdressers, barbers and beauty salons were allowed to reopen, maintaining social distancing
  • Close-contact services like spas and massage; tattoo parlours, holistic therapies and reflexology were also allowed to resume trading from 6 July

Sports/gyms

Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Golf was one of the first sports allowed to resume
  • From Monday 15 June, elite athletes were able to resume training outdoors
  • Golf courses and tennis courts reopened at the end of May, along with angling
  • Elite athletes were allowed to resume training at indoor facilities from 29 June
  • Gyms reopened from 10 July, with outdoor playgrounds also allowed to reopen from then
  • Competitive sport can resume from 17 July - with "limited numbers" of outdoor spectators, to be increased from 31 July
  • Leisure centres and soft play areas, indoor sports courts and skating rinks have been given a provisional date of 7 August
  • Socially-distanced indoor spectators can return to sporting events from 28 August, as long as the spread of the virus remains low

Schools

  • The target for reopening of schools has moved from 17 August to 24 August, with Primary Seven, Year 12 and Year 14 pupils returning then
  • The executive has agreed that social distancing can be reduced from 2m (6ft) to 1m in order to allow more children to attend school

Childcare

  • The executive 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
  • At the start of the pandemic, only vulnerable children and children of key workers were allowed to avail of childcare, but last week the definition of a key worker was expanded, as more sectors of the economy began to reopen
  • From 1 July, that key worker definition was scrapped meaning all parents could access provision
  • There were no limits on the capacity of who could be cared for from this date in day care centres or nurseries
  • However, childminders, who could only look after three families, were allowed to care for four families from 29 June and up to five in August
  • Summer schemes for children aged between nine and 13 will go ahead on a limited basis, with key workers' children getting priority for places

Pubs and restaurants

Image copyright PA Media
  • Bars, restaurants and cafes reopened on 3 July, following an announcement by Economy Minister Diane Dodds
  • Bars with outside areas are able to serve alcohol on a table-service basis, while inside alcohol has to be served along with a meal, also on a table-service basis
  • Restaurants were allowed to offer takeaway food and delivery services during lockdown

Hotels, holiday homes and caravans

  • Hotels reopened from 3 July - the same date as bars and restaurants
  • Hotels had previously been given an indicative date of 20 July for reopening, but that date was brought forward in an announcement by Economy Minister Diane Dodds
  • Self-catering tourist accommodation opened from 26 June

Hospitals

  • Partners can now attend scans with pregnant women, following an announcement on 30 June
  • General visiting restrictions have also been relaxed in hospitals and care homes

Visitor attractions and other services

  • Zoos in Northern Ireland reopened from 3 July
  • Cinemas, bingo halls and amusement arcades reopened from 10 July
  • Libraries can reopen from 16 July
  • Open-air museums can resume trading from late-August

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