The Executive has today agreed several “measured relaxations” to the current Covid-19 restrictions.
While the majority of the current regulations will remain in place until after Easter, the Executive agreed to gradual changes which will come into effect before the next formal review date “on or before April 15”.
In relation to schools, the Executive agreed that all Primary 4 to Primary 7 pupils will return to school from Monday, March 22. They will join the younger students who started back to full-time face to face teaching last week.
It was also agreed that Year 8-11 pupils will return to the classroom after the Easter holiday on April 12, subject to a review of the public health situation at the end of March.
The return to face to face teaching limits the scope for further relaxations but, as a result of the efforts by the majority across society in following the public health advice and slowing the spread of the virus, Ministers agreed the following package of easements in outdoor settings.
These are seen to represent a lower risk than activities indoors and the Executive is keen to give the public the opportunity to interact with friends and families outdoors, while adhering to public health advice.
From April 1, the regulations will change to:
Permit 10 people from two households to undertake outdoor sporting activities as defined in the regulations.
This allows sports such as golf and tennis to resume from this date in small groups of individuals from two households, however club houses and sport facilities including changing rooms, showers, kitchens, meeting rooms must remain closed apart from essential toilet facilities.
Up to six people (including children) from two households may meet outdoors in a garden.
Garden centres and plant nurseries can operate a contactless click and collect service.
The Executive also agreed an indicative date of April 12 for:
Increasing the numbers who can meet outdoors in a garden from six to 10 (including children) from two households;
Allowing contactless click and collect service for all non-essential retail;
Allowing for sports training to resume by sports clubs affiliated with recognised Governing Bodies, in small groups of up to 15 people but with all indoor spaces closed except for essential toilet facilities;
Removal of the ‘stay at home’ provision in the legislation; stronger promotion of the stay local and work from home messages.
These relaxations planned for April 12 will be subject to Executive ratification in the week after the Easter weekend.
The Executive has also agreed to increase the provision for elite sports from March 25 to allow a number of new competitions to begin.
This minor adjustment to the current restrictions will allow two World Cup qualification matches scheduled for March 25 and 31 to take place as well as a friendly match between NI and the USA on March 28.
Irish league teams will also be able to begin training.
No spectators will be permitted at any sporting event.