29 Sept 2022

Face coverings to remain compulsory for NI this winter 

First Minister, Paul Givan, sets out Covid contingency plans as winter season approaches

coronavirus covid-19

Free Face masks call by south Donegal TD

Wearing face coverings in crowded indoor spaces will remain a legal requirement in Northern Ireland throughout autumn and winter. 

It comes as part of the Northern Ireland's Executive's winter Covid contingency plans. 

The Executive said there was a need to keep as many sectors open "to the fullest possible extent". 

First Minister, Paul Givan said doing that would depend on as "many people as possible getting vaccinated.” 

Just over 82% of people aged 12 and above in Northern Ireland had received one dose of the vaccine.

Mr Givan said: "Our vaccination rates are very good but there is still room for improvement.” 

Further Covid restrictions are due to be relaxed by the Executive on October 31.  

This will allow for nightclubs to reopen, restrictions on indoor dancing lifted and the requirement to be seated in hospitality to drink and eat food will no longer be in place. 

Mr Givan said it was a "fact of life" that Covid remains an ongoing issue, and that the Executive needed to continue to find ways to manage the situation. 

The First Minister says that the Executive will launch a new public information campaign before the end of October to "build on the need for all of us to keep making safer choices". 

He also said that there would be a focus on “flexible and hybrid working” in workplaces. 

Mr Givan set out a range of options if Covid cases rise drastically or hospital pressures become “unsustainable” with the possibility of deploying Covid vaccine passports in high-risk settings, “if considered appropriate.” 

The Department of Health at Stormont is also working on a system if this situation arises that would see the strengthening of self-isolation rules for close contacts of those who contract the virus and a "re-imposition" in law of social distancing in certain settings.  

He continued: "The efforts that have been made by so many in recent months to drive up vaccination rates and step-up compliance with mitigations do seem to be working. 

"It is vital that we don't let up. We must maintain our focus and collective endeavour. All of us have a part to play in keeping transmission under control." 

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