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Covid-19 restrictions to relax in NI: what are the changes?

A relaxation of Covid measures beginning from tomorrow (Friday, January 21) has been announced by the Northern Ireland Executive.

The restrictions - mainly involving the hospitality sector - were put in place to help manage the spread of the Omicron variant of the virus.

While scientific advisors have confirmed the peak of infections is likely to have passed, they say it “remains possible” that case numbers may rebound due to the impact of the return of schools.

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The relaxation of some restrictions will take place over the next week.

The Northern Ireland Executive has agreed a series of relaxations to Covid-19 restrictions. Aoife Teague, Eimear Shannon, Claire Teague and Ciara Fanning are pictured in Belfast City Centre looking forward to the changes. Picture By: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker Press.

The Executive has urged everyone to continue to follow the public health advice.

What are the changes from 12 noon tomorrow?

* In hospitality settings - the requirement to be seated whilst consuming food and/or drink and for table service in premises that provide alcohol will be removed as will the rule of six.

* In domestic settings - guidance regarding the cap on the number households meeting indoors will be removed. A maximum number of 30 people permitted to gather will be retained in regulation.

Bars across Northern Ireland have been following the Covid restrictions. Picture By: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker Press.

* Face coverings – the requirement to provide proof of exemption will be removed and the reasonable excuse of ‘severe distress’ will be reintroduced.

* Working form home - the guidance on working from home will revert to working from home where you can with employers encouraged to facilitate this.

* Self-isolation - the Executive has been advised by the Department of Health that 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 their isolation.

What are the changes from 12 noon on Wednesday, January 26?

* Nightclubs will be permitted to open.

* Dancing and indoor standing events can resume.

* 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.

* 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.

When will any other Covid measures be considered?

* All remaining Covid measures will be reviewed by the Executive on February 10. These includes the guidance on the regular use of Lateral Flow testing, and in particular before meeting up with others.