Covid-19: Some NI travel rules to be relaxed from 24 May

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image captionThe Common Travel Area consists of the UK, Republic of Ireland, Channel Islands and Isle of Man

Non-essential travel from Northern Ireland to other parts of the Common Travel Area (CTA) is to be allowed from 24 May.

People will not be required to self-isolate when they return to Northern Ireland if they have visited family or friends in other parts of the CTA.

The CTA is the UK, Republic of Ireland, Channel Islands and Isle of Man.

The NI Executive has also announced upcoming relaxations for indoor hospitality and sporting events.

Previously, Stormont had only advised that people could travel from Northern Ireland to the CTA for "essential" reasons.

From 24 May, travellers who have come to Northern Ireland but have completed mandatory quarantine on arrival "at a point of entry elsewhere in the CTA" will also not have to self-isolate.

The guidance sets out that those exempt from self-isolation will be asked to take lateral flow tests for Covid-19 pre-departure, as well as on days two and eight post-arrival into Northern Ireland.

Spectators return

From an indicative date of 24 May, ministers agreed up to 500 people can attend outdoor sport events as spectators.

Up to 1,000 fans will be allowed to attend the Irish Cup final at Mourneview Park in Lurgan, County Armagh, on 21 May.

image copyrightPacemaker
image captionFans will be able to attend the Irish Cup Final

From 24 May, schools will also be allowed to play sports fixtures against each other.

From that same date, libraries and museums will be permitted to reopen, and the stay local message will also be removed.

Indoor hospitality will be permitted to resume from 24 May, with a maximum of six people per table from a maximum of six households or up to 10 people provided they are all from the same household.

Indoor sports training will be allowed to resume for sports squads from the same date along with wedding receptions and post-funeral events.

Plans to ease restrictions on 24 May will be subject to final approval on 20 May.

Other easing measures include increased numbers permitted for indoor gatherings - not including domestic settings - to allow for community events such as mother-and-toddler groups to resume.

From 24 May, up to six people from no more than two households will be allowed to meet in private homes, with children aged 12 and under not counted towards the total.

Overnight stays will also be allowed.

All retail, outdoor hospitality and self-contained tourist accommodation in Northern Ireland have already reopened.

Theatre and concert halls have been given an indicative date of 21 June to reopen, but this will be reviewed by the executive nearer the time in line with public health advice.

Theatres were allowed to resume rehearsals last summer, but were never allowed to welcome back audiences.

It is not clear if it will extend to other live music venues, or what mitigations theatres will need to put in place.

'Welcome progress'

Retail NI chief executive Glyn Roberts said the announcement was "welcome progress toward the full reopening of our local high streets and our wider economy".

"While we are moving forward, we continue to urge shoppers and visitors to our town centres to follow the medical guidance in order to keep transmission of the virus down," he said.

Hospitality Ulster chief Colin Neill welcomed the announcement that indoor hospitality would be permitted to resume from 24 May, but stressed financial support was needed for those still unable to reopen.

He said the remaining ban on music meant some hospitality businesses such as nightclubs and music venues were likely to remain closed.

"Immediate attention must be given to continued financial support for these businesses as we work to reopen them and bring music and culture back to Northern Ireland's nightlife as soon as possible," Mr Neill said.

Hugging

In a statement issued on Thursday, the Executive Office said it was "conscious that people want to see their family and friends again in less restricted circumstances".

"While there is an ongoing need to be cautious and careful, and to think about individual circumstances and scenarios, the Executive sees benefit in people being able to hug their loved ones," it continued.

"However, physical contact with others will always be associated with risk of transmitting the virus, and that risk will be greater when one or more of those involved has not been vaccinated."

The rules on social distancing in hospitality and retail are not changing at this time and the Executive said "hugging is not permitted in those environments".

People in England, Scotland and Wales will be allowed to meet in each other's homes and enjoy indoor hospitality from Monday.

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