Northern Ireland news

Small, outdoor weddings and civil partnerships can go ahead from Monday June 8

Very small weddings may be held from June 8

The Stormont Executive has confirmed a number of minor relaxations to coronavirus regulations will be introduced from Monday.

Retailers and small outdoor weddings will be permitted from June 8 after it was confirmed the R number - or rate of infection - remained below one.

Large stores like car showrooms and those in retail parks stocking household electrical appliances, computer equipment, mobile phones and furniture will also be able to open their doors.

A number of nurseries are set to reopen next week, taking in children of key workers.

The executive also agreed to formally introduce regulations to enforce the new UK-wide 14-day quarantine policy which comes into force on June 8.

From Monday, people arriving in Northern Ireland from outside the UK and Ireland's Common Travel Area will have to self-isolate for 14 days, with those not complying liable to a maximum fine of £1,000.

Those who arrive into a port or airport in the Republic from outside the Common Travel Area and then travel north will also be subject to the same regulations.

The measures agreed today include:

  • Those who are shielding will be able to spend time outside with people from their own household or a person from another household whilst ensuring social distancing is observed
  • People will be permitted to leave home to attend to the needs or welfare of an animal or animals
  • Outdoor marriages and civil partnership ceremonies will be allowed, with number of people attending limited to 10
  • Outdoor sports facilities will be permitted to reopen
  • The conduct of business by outdoor non-food retailers will be permitted, including new and used car retailers; retailers of light motor vehicles, lorries/trailers; retailers of caravans or motorhomes, and retailers of agricultural or other large machinery
  • The conduct of business by non-food retail outlets with lower frequency customer visits and/or with a greater propensity for larger store areas will be permitted. But only where those outlets have direct street access or direct access within a retail park

The Executive also confirmed that hotels and other tourist accommodation can reopen from July 20 if virus transmissions rates continue to decline, adding a final decision will be made nearer the time.

First Minister Arlene Foster said the decisions were taken following scientific and medical advice.

"We understand the impact these draconian regulations are having on families and the desire to return to a way of life before Covid-19. But Covid-19 is still with us, it is still circulating in the community and every relaxation we make to the regulations increases the risk of spreading the virus and increasing the transmission rate," she said.

"That's why it is important that people continue to restrict their activities in public and exercise their rights proportionately and responsibly, adhering to the guidelines on social distancing and good hand hygiene.

"We have only been able to make these relaxations because the public have followed the advice and flattened the curve of infection, protected the health service and saved many lives. It is important that we all stick the course now, so that further relaxations can be made in the future."

Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill said the Executive had received "positive news" about the R number in the north.

"Last week the R number was at 0.9. We said we would move forward to further ease the restrictions providing the R rate did not rise above that position and today we had positive news," she said.

"This has allowed us to make good on our intention to introduce further relaxations from the beginning of next week.

"Today's news will be welcome progress for some areas of the retail sector but it is particularly significant for those people who have been shielding. We know this has been a difficult and lonely time for many people who have isolated themselves for their own protection and they can now look forward next week to meeting outdoors in limited circumstances and having a chance to reconnect with loved ones."

The Department of Health confirmed the reproduction number of the virus in Northern Ireland lies between 0.7 to 0.9.

The department is publishing the R rate once a week. The rate indicates the number of people an infected person infects on average.



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