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The NI Executive is looking to relax the current lockdown restrictions. There are important factors when considering this and everyone must remain focused on the health and safety of the population, improving the economy and addressing the challenges everyone is experiencing.

The current steps that are being taken, both in government and across society, is working. If this continues, it will allow the NI Executive to relax regulations in stages when the time is right.

Any relaxations will be based on the following:

  • evidence and analysis, including latest medical/scientific advice, the level of transmission and the impact of relaxations on the future trajectory of the pandemic
  • capacity of the health and social care services to deal with COVID-19 cases as well as the need to resume normal services
  • assessment of the wider health, societal and economic impacts, including identifying the areas where greatest benefit and lowest risk would result from relaxation

The NI Executive will also consider measure of virus transmission (R). This tells us how many new people are being infected by an existing case of the virus.

R has now fallen to less than 1 community transmission, meaning each case of Coronavirus will likely lead to less than one additional new case. In order to keep the coronavirus from growing, R will need to stay at or below 1.

The NI Executive will also apply the following guiding principles when considering whether a specific restriction or requirement should be retained, removed or changed:

  • controlling transmission
  • protecting healthcare capacity
  • necessity – retaining restrictions for only as long as is necessary to address the spread of coronavirus
  • proportionality – ensuring the proposed changes are proportionate to the risks faced
  • reliance on evidence -using the best available evidence and analysis to inform any proposals for change

The NI Executive have set out some indicative steps for the relaxation of restrictions, using the criteria detailed above.

There are steps outlined for six different sectors:

  • work
  • retail
  • education
  • travel
  • family and community
  • sport, culture and leisure activities

Work –

Step One – Encouragement to those unable to work from home to return to workplace on phased basis subject to legal requirements and best practice arrangements being in place.

Step Two – none

Step Three – Phased return to office and onsite working subject to risk assessment. Work that can be done from home should be done from home.

Step Four – None

Step Five – All able to return to work subject to mitigation. Remote working still strongly encouraged and maintained where possible.

Retail –

Step One – Large outdoor based retail can open (e.g. garden centres – though associated cafes and restaurants only able to offer takeaway/collection).

Step Two – Non-food retail can open where numbers limited and social distancing and other mitigating measures in place as per risk assessment.

Step Three – None

Step Four – Other ‘contact’ retail (hairdressers, fitness studios, tattoo/piercing) can open subject to mitigation following risk assessment.

Step Five – Hospitality retail (restaurants, cafes, pubs) can open subject to risk assessment, on a limited basis to start with.

Education –

Step One – None

Step Two – Subject to risk assessment and adhering to maximum capacities, provision expanded to cover wider definition of key workers as workplace activity gradually increases.

Step Three – Schools expand provision to accommodate a number of priority cohorts on a part time basis with a blended learning approach involving a combination of in-school and remote learning.

Step Four – Schools expand provision to accommodate all pupils on a part time basis with a blended learning approach involving a combination of in school and remote learning.

Step Five – Subject to medical and scientific advice, expand early year school provision to full time basis.

Travel –

Step One – None

Step Two – Public transport continues to operate but will face challenges in meeting increased demand, especially on peak services, as social distancing requirements remain in place. People to be encouraged to walk and cycle for short journeys where possible.

Step Three – None

Step Four – Public transport continues to operate, but subject to ongoing risk assessment. Demand on peak services, particularly within urban areas likely to increase. Reducing and staggering demand through continued home working and staggered start times for businesses would assist as social distancing requirements remain in place. People to be encouraged to walk and cycle for short journeys where possible.

Step Five – Public transport operating a full service but subject to ongoing risk assessment. Message about walking and cycling continues to be reinforced.

Family & Community –

Step One – Groups of 4 – 6 people who do not share a household can meet outdoors maintaining social distancing. With the exception of people who are shielding, visits to immediate family allowed indoors where social distancing is possible. Drive through church services and churches open for private prayer with appropriate social distancing and cleaning of shared contact hard surfaces.

Step Two – Groups of up to 10 can meet outdoors.

Step Three – Gatherings can accommodate up to 30 people while maintaining social distancing.

Step Four – A wider range of gatherings permitted including church services subject to social distancing and other suitable mitigation, such as cleaning of hard surfaces.

Step Five – Can meet in extended groups subject to social distancing or other suitable mitigation.

Sport, Culture and Leisure –

Step One – Outdoor spaces and public sport amenities to open. Can undertake for example, walking, running, cycling, some water activities, golf, tennis. Drive through cinema.

Step Two – Resumption of team sports training on a non-contact basis in small groups. Selected libraries open, restricted services. Open air museums re-open.

Step Three – Resumption of  team sports training on a non-contact basis. Museums and galleries open. Libraries open. Concert and theatre rehearsals resume.

Step Four – Resumption of competitive sport ‘behind closed doors’ or with limitations on the number of spectators. Leisure centres and other indoor leisure facilities open. Outdoor concerts on restricted basis.

Step Five – Resumption of close physical contact sports. Return to competitive sport and full use of sporting facilities. Spectators to attend live events on restricted basis. Nightclubs, concerts open on a limited basis.


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