Following careful consideration of the public health situation and wider societal context, the Northern Ireland Executive has today agreed a number of changes to the Covid-19 restrictions relating to social distancing, live music venues and international travel.

The following changes will come into effect from 6pm on Friday, July 30.


Social distancing

The Executive has considered whether some changes can be made to social distancing arrangements at this time, noting that there will be a fuller discussion on August 12.

The Executive has noted the health benefits of social distancing, the economic benefits of sectors and venues re-opening, and the societal benefits this brings.

The Executive has therefore decided that in relation to retail and shopping centres, the regulations will move from a requirement for two metres to one metre.

This will ensure consistency in regulations with other indoor settings such as hospitality and indoor attractions.

For outdoor venues, the guidance will continue to note the health benefits of two metres’s social distancing.

However, the guidance will further advise that social distancing requirements are strongly advised but are not a requirement.

Where possible, a minimum of one metre should be maintained, and ideally, two metres.

The Executive remains concerned about the spread of the virus and its transmissibility.

Therefore, the Executive calls on all venues, customers and attendees to be mindful of this in organising and attending events, and to follow all the public health advice on matters such as hand washing, the wearing of face coverings, the benefits of taking lateral flow tests, and the essential need to self-isolate if you have a positive test or are otherwise asked to do so.

The virus remains a risk to our health and economic wellbeing and the steps taken today must be seen in that context.


Live music venues

The Executive are expanding on their previous decision, to allow the return of live music in concert halls and theatres, to include other indoor venues such as function rooms of hotels, or community halls.

There will be no restriction to background or ambient levels of volume.

Where the venue is a space within a larger premises, access to the venue must be effectively controlled and managed, and the venue must be sufficiently isolated from the rest of the premises to ensure that the volume of the music in the venue does not breach ambient or background levels in other parts of the premises.

Entry to performances for audiences will be by ticket only. Tickets must be purchased in advance of the performance.

Audiences for indoor events must have allocated seating and remain seated, dancing will not be permitted and social distancing of one metre will be required.

Use of risk reduction measures

The use of lateral flow testing for all events is strongly advised as a measure to reduce risk.

Social distancing, the use of face coverings, and holding events outdoors where possible, are also advised as mitigating measures.


International Travel

From August 2, there will be a pilot roll-out of the expansion of the Amber vaccinated arrivals policy to include people vaccinated in any of the EU27 countries (except France); EFTA countries (Norway, Switzerland, Iceland, Liechtenstein); the European microstate countries (Andorra, Monaco, and Vatican City); and the United States.

In relation to arrivals from America, it was agreed that the policy approach will be that only people fully vaccinated with FDA-approved vaccines in the US roll-out, who can present a CDC card as proof of vaccination, would be included.

A requirement to prove residency in addition to the CDC card for US arrivals was agreed, to mitigate against fraud.

From July 31, international cruises will restart in line with the ‘traffic light’ system, with strong guidance to the sector outlining the need to manage increased risks and maintain risk mitigations (including the use of vaccination and testing), alongside continued monitoring of cruise data and clear contingency plans.

Measures will be put in place to facilitate alternative managed isolation arrangements for international student arrivals from Red List countries, from August 9.

From August 2, a bespoke testing regime will be implemented, which will apply to NI international arrivals exempt from self-isolation because they are travelling for work.

This will only apply to specific types of work, as outlined in the regulations.

An exemption from self-isolation for Villarreal fans and UEFA VIPs travelling for the Super Cup Final on August 11 will be put in place, with the IFA putting in place a range of mitigations.