Northern Ireland news

Families to gradually reunite under Northern Ireland's five-step plan to ease lockdown

Libraries such as the Central Library in Belfast will be allowed to re-open as part of Step 3 in the Culture, Heritage and Entertainment section of the blueprint for easing lockdown. Picture by bHugh Russell
Marie Louise McConville

THE Executive's plan for easing lockdown yesterday laid out the path towards the reopening of gyms and libraries as well as the return of indoor and outdoor spectators.

Unlike plans announced in England and Scotland, the Northern Ireland blueprint did not include any dates or timetable, rather a series of steps.

While step one highlights the current restrictions, steps two to four represent an easing of the rules while step five is the eventual scenario, preparing for the future.

With regards to home life, families and friends will eventually be allow to reunite through the series of steps.

Step two will allow up to six people from two households to meet outdoors at a private dwelling and up to 10 people from two households will then be allowed to meet outdoors, not at a private dwelling

At this point, the `Stay at home' message will be relaxed.

The next step will see up to six people from two households allowed to meet indoors at a private dwelling.

This will be followed by increased numbers being allowed for organised gatherings not at a private dwelling.

Restricted numbers will also be allowed indoors, not at a private dwelling

Step four will see up to 10 people from two households meeting indoors and outdoors in private dwellings and there will be no household limits on meeting outdoors not at a private dwelling

Overnight stays will also be allowed.

The final step will see household limits lifted in private dwellings and organised outdoors gatherings limited only by risk assessment and mitigations.

For the culture, heritage and entertainment sector, the next step will be the reopening of all outdoor visitor attractions while this will be followed by the reopening of indoor visitor attractions, including heritage sites.

Libraries will then be given the green light to reopen followed by low-risk activities including organised rehearsal and practice being allowed to take place.

The next step will see seated venues including theatres, concert venues and cinemas reopening as well as amateur and youth performance activity, with some mitigations.

Outdoor organised events can take place, with limited numbers.

The final step will see larger outdoor organised events, concerts and festivals being allowed to resume.

In relation to sport and leisure activities, step two will see outdoor sports facilities re-open for training and organised group activities and outdoor competitive sport can resume with no spectators

The next step will see leisure centres and all indoor sports facilities reopen, including swimming pools and gyms reopen and indoor group activities and classes can resume.

Also, leisure activity venues can reopen, including soft play.

This will be followed by a limited number of outdoor and indoor spectators being allowed while the final step will see more spectators allowed.

Meanwhile, Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey yesterday met Sport NI, the NI Sports Forum and Sports Governing Bodies to discuss the pathway to a safe return to organised outdoor sport.

Representatives from soccer, GAA, rugby, golf and other outdoor sports discussed the protocols they had put in place to make their organised sports sessions Covid safe.

The minister said: "Sport and physical activity is fundamental to helping us deal with the impact of the Covid pandemic and that is why I will make the case for a safe return to organised outdoor sport in line with the health protection regulations".

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Northern Ireland news