Northern Ireland news

Covid-19 international travel quarantine rules relaxed

The Executive has agreed to allow Uefa VIP guests and Villarreal fans to travel to attend the Super Cup in Belfast on August 11 without the need to isolate. Picture by Gareth Fuller, Press Association

Stormont has agreed to follow a rule change to international travel adopted by Britain and allow travellers from EU amber countries and the US who are fully vaccinated to enter without the need to quarantine from Monday August 2.

The Executive has also agreed to allow Uefa VIP guests and Villarreal fans to travel to attend the Super Cup in Belfast on August 11 without the need to isolate.

Chelsea fans travelling from England for the showpiece match are already not subject to any travel restrictions.

Ministers have also agreed to the return of international cruise travel in and out of Northern Ireland from Saturday July 31.

Managed isolation arrangements for international students arriving from red list countries ahead of the new academic term have also been approved. These arrangements will come into effect on August 9.

Ministers also signed off on a bespoke Covid-19 testing regime for international travellers whose jobs qualify them for isolation exemptions. This will come into effect on Monday August 2.

Some of the rules and guidance around social distancing have also been relaxed.

All indoor settings will apply a one-metre distance rule. This will bring retail and shopping centres, where a two-metre rule currently applies, into line with the regulation for other indoor venues such as hospitality outlets.

In outdoor settings, social distancing is not a requirement and is instead urged in guidance. The guidance had urged two metres as an appropriate distance. Guidance will now change to urge a distance of between one to two metres.

Executive ministers have also extended a decision on allowing the full return of live music at theatres and concert venues to cover other indoor venues, such as hotel function rooms and community halls.

There will be no restriction on volume level.

Dancing will not be permitted at indoor events and a social distance of one metre will be required.

Decisions around the use of face masks in schools and on whether to allow the return of conferences and exhibitions have been pushed back to the Executive's next meeting on August 12.

It comes as two more people with Covid-19 have died and a futher 1,471 people have been diagnosed with the disease, the Department of Health has confirmed.

The death toll stands at 2,178. The seven-day infection rate is 482.8 per 100,000 of the population.

There are 31 people with Covid-19 receiving specialist care in ICU and 25 of them are on ventilators while 234 people who have tested positive for Covid-19 are in hospital.

There are now 80 outbreaks in care homes across the north.

Justice Minister Naomi Long said the purpose of relaxation of some Covid regulations agreed by the Executive was to make it easier for people to understand the rules.

"The purpose of most of the changes that were made today was to try to simplify the regulations so that people have a clear understanding of how the rules will apply," she told the BBC.

"With relaxations - and this happened in the phase we went through last summer - you get into these situations where there are anomalies and it is important that every so often we take stock and we try to simplify them because what we know from experience is that adherence has been pretty good in terms of people sticking to the regulations where they are clear and where they understand them.

"So, simplifying the rules, and that includes the rules around international travel, so that people in England and Wales are following the same rules as people in Scotland and Northern Ireland, actually assists people in terms of being able to keep in line with the rules.

"Of course, it is a concern and I would continue to encourage people to do all the things we have been asking them to do."


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