The Executive has today agreed further relaxations to restrictions as part of its Coronavirus recovery pathway.

The Executive also agreed a fresh set of regulations for the purpose of retaining  those restrictions and requirements that are considered still to be necessary.

It is intended that the Health Minister will make the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (No. 2) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2020 (“The No. 2 Regulations”) this evening, to come into effect on July 24. The new regulations retain the general restriction limiting gatherings to 30 participants, with a number of general categories of exception to this limit.

Ministers also agreed to legislate to take the power to make the use of face coverings mandatory in a number of indoor settings. This will not be implemented immediately. A publicity campaign will encourage the wearing of face coverings, and the Executive will consider the impact of this campaign at its meeting on August 20. If there has not been a significant increase in the use of face coverings by this stage, the Executive will implement the power to make this mandatory.

The Executive has agreed to write to both the British and Irish Governments calling for a special summit of the British Irish Council to be convened to discuss Covid travel issues and the Common Travel Area. It was also agreed that updated travel advice would be published on

Ministers have confirmed the following relaxations which are made in the expectation of all relevant public health advice being followed. From tomorrow, July 24:

  • The maximum number of people who can gather in a residential setting will increase from six to 10, with a requirement that they come from no more than four different households and an expectation that social distancing and other public health advice is observed;
  • Overnight stays in a different household will be enabled;
  • Community centres and halls will be enabled to reopen;
  • Spectators will be enabled to attend outdoor competitive games with numbers to be determined by the venue in line with public health advice;
  • Swimming pools in leisure centres, hotels and private facilities will be enabled to open;
  • Wet treatments in spas, such as saunas, steam rooms and hydrotherapy pools will be permitted to resume;
  • Bowling alleys will be enabled to reopen;
  • Indoor and outdoor funfairs will be enabled to reopen.

The Executive has also agreed an indicative date of August 10 for the reopening of indoor pubs and bars selling only drink (wet pubs). This relaxation will be ratified in advance of the indicative date depending on the prevailing Covid-19 situation at that time.

Health Minister Robin Swann has welcomed the Northern Ireland Executive’s decision to make the wearing of face coverings mandatory in shops.

Mr Swann stated: “I am pleased that the Executive has supported my recommendation to move to a mandatory position. This is in line with the expert advice provided to Ministers by the Chief Medical Officer and Chief Scientific Adviser.

“We need to promote every available measure to stop the spread of Covid-19 in our community.

“The evidence in support of face coverings in shops and other enclosed spaces has become increasingly compelling.

“It should become second nature to us in the weeks and months ahead. I am confident people will want to do the right thing.

“This is particularly important in light of the fact that shielding is due to be paused from July 31. As people who have been shielding start resuming everyday activities, the wearing of face coverings in shops is a practical way to reassure them and help them keep safe.

“I am also very mindful of the need to protect retail staff.”

Mr Swann added: “I acknowledge that there are sincerely held views against face coverings and that some in the retail industry would prefer a voluntary approach.

“However, I do not consider this would achieve the necessary compliance.

“The experience to date from a mandatory approach on public transport in Northern Ireland has been positive.”

The lead-in period before enforcement takes effect will allow time for public education and engagement to promote the benefits of face coverings.

A public information campaign will be undertaken and guidance issued to the retail sector. This will detail the exemptions to the measure.

Employees and children under 13 will not be required to wear the face coverings. Nor will those who cannot wear them on health grounds.

The public information campaign will also reinforce current messaging on social distancing, and hand and respiratory hygiene.

“Everyone needs to be aware that wearing face coverings is first and foremost about protecting others.” the Minister added.

“It does not reduce the need to keep our distance and regularly wash our hands. It must not lead to a false sense of security.”