Executive Agrees Further Lifting Of Covid Restrictions

A host of changes to the Covid-19 restrictions are set to come into force today in Northern Ireland, including reductions in social distancing in some spaces and new international travel limitations.

The latest changes will come into effect from 6pm today, Friday 30 July.

In a statement, the Executive outlined its changes for social distancing, live music venues and travel.

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 12 August.

The Executive has therefore decided that:

• In relation to retail and shopping centres, the regulations will move from a requirement for 2 metres to 1 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 2 metres 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 1 metre should be maintained and ideally 2 metres.

Live music venues

Expanding the previous decision, the changes will now 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 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.
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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 1m 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 02 August 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 (except France); EFTA countries (Norway, Switzerland, Iceland, Liechtenstein); and the European microstate countries (Andorra, Monaco, and Vatican City) and the United States.

In relation to arrivals from the United States, it was agreed that the policy approach will be that: only people fully vaccinated with FDA-approved vaccines in the US rollout, 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 31 July, 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 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 9 August.

From 02 August, 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 11 August will be put in place, with the IFA putting in place a range of mitigations.

Recovery Plan

The Executive today also agreed the Building Forward – Consolidated Covid Recovery Plan that will be published tomorrow.

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