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Two metre distance rule to be relaxed as bookies, bingo, gyms and sports given re-open dates

It is the latest in a range of relaxation to restrictions which had been imposed

Coronavirus Social distancing

The two-metre distance rule is to be reduced to one-metre.

The move was confirmed at the daily briefing of the Northern Ireland Executive.

First Minister Arlene Foster said it would be of particular interest to the hospitality industry.

It is the latest in a range of relaxation to restrictions which had been imposed.

But both the First Minister and Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill stressed these were indicative timefames – published in full at the end here – and could change.

Deputy First Minister O’Neill said the reopening were “not compulsory but permissible”.

Thursday’s update also gave the go-ahead for more businesses and services to begin trading again.

Tattoo parlours, nail bars and complementary therapy providers can reopen from July 6, and bookmakers from July 7.

Leisure facilities and sports will also be further accommodated.

From Monday, June 29, elite athlete indoor training facilities will be permitted to reopen, with indoor gyms and outdoor leisure, including playgrounds, from July 10.

Meanwhile, book lovers will be accommodated when libraries are given the OK to go from July 16.

Competitive sport will re-commence on July 17.

Bingo halls can resume too from July 27.

And indoor sports venues – including courts and skating rinks – can begin to operate from August 7, while leisure centres and soft play areas can operate again from August 17.

Northern Ireland is opening up again but the onus is on people to remain sensible, said the First Minister Foster.

Earlier Environment Minister Edwin Poots gave the go-ahead for Northern Ireland’s zoo-licence holders to get up and running again from July 3.

These will of course all be kept under review.

The announcements on Thursday afternoon came shortly after the Department of Health published the current Covid-19 reproduction number (R).

The current estimate of R is 0.6 – 0.9 which has remained steady since last week and is helping the Executive in its decision making today.

As of June 21 – Sunday – the seven-day rolling average of new cases is two.

In the past seven days (from 18 June) there have been four deaths reported.

A spokesperson for the Department of Health said: “It is important to model the Covid-19 epidemic in Northern Ireland in order to plan the delivery of Health and Social Care services and to inform decision making with regard to social distancing and other restrictions.

“Central to this modelling is estimating the Reproduction Number (R). R is the number of individuals who, on average, will be infected by a single infected person.

“There are different ways of calculating R and a number of different values for R each day are produced. That is why the number is being published in the form of banding.

“The Executive has indicated that keeping R below 1 is a key objective as we move forward in the epidemic.

“However, when community transmission of the virus is very low, R will no longer be the most important number in relation to the status of the epidemic.

“In particular, once the number of new cases is sufficiently low in the presence of a robust testing programme and test/trace/protect strategy, number of positive tests per day is likely to be a more important measure.”

Ministers sanctioned an indicative timetable of further relaxations during June, July and August which will be implemented if the R rate remains below 1, including the:

  • Resumption of contact sport training (29 June)
  • Reopening of betting shops (3 July)
  • Resumption of further close contact services including tattoo parlours, piercings and spas (6 July)
  • Reopening of indoor gyms (10 July)
  • Reopening of outdoor leisure playgrounds (10 July)
  • Reopening of libraries (16 July)
  • Competitive sports (17 July)
  • Limited numbers of outdoor spectators permitted (17 July) with numbers increased at a later date (31 July)
  • Reopening of seated venues including cinemas and bingo halls (29 July)
  • Reopening of indoor sports courts and skating rinks (7 August)
  • Reopening of arcades (29 July)
  • Leisure centres and soft play areas (7 August)
  • Socially distanced indoor spectators permitted (28 August)
  • Open air museums (late August)

First Minister Foster and deputy First Minister O’Neill also confirmed the following relaxations will take effect over the coming weeks:

  • Opening places of worship from Monday, 29 June;
  • Indoor training for elite and grass roots athletes, 29 June;
  • Holiday and tourism accommodation, including holiday apartments, homes, cottages, bungalows, caravan parks and campsites from tomorrow, 26 June;
  • Travel to stay in a second home from tomorrow, 26 June;
  • The re-opening of hotels, restaurants, bars, cafes and coffee shops from 3 July;
  • The re-opening of visitor attractions from 3 July; and
  • The re-opening of nail, hair, beauty, barbers, tanning salons, electrolysis and acupuncture from 6 July.

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