Changes to social distancing and a relaxation of rules around indoor live music are among easements to Covid regulations announced by the NI Executive this afternoon.
The changes, which will come into effect on Friday July 30 at 6.00pm, have been agreed following 'careful consideration of the public health situation'.
In outdoor settings, social distancing will no longer be a requirement, but remains strongly advised, with a minimum of one metre advised by the Executive.
In retail and shopping centres, social distancing will be reduced to just one metre to ensure consistency in regulations with other indoor settings such as hospitality and indoor attractions.
Live music will return to concert halls, theatres and other indoor venues, such as hotel function rooms or community halls.
There will be no restriction on volume, but if the venue is within a larger premises, access must be effectively managed and the venue must be sufficiently isolated from the rest of the premises to ensure the volume does not breach background levels in other parts of the premises.
Entry to performances must remain ticket-only, with tickets purchased in advance, while audiences at indoor events must have allocated seating and remain seated. Dancing will not be permitted and 1m social distancing will be required.
The use of lateral flow testing for all events is strongly advised as a measure to reduce risk. Social distancing; the use of face coverings; and holding events outdoors where possible, are also advised as mitigating measures.
From 2 August there will be a pilot roll out of the expansion of the amber vaccinated arrivals policy to include people vaccinated in any of the EU27 (except France); EFTA countries (Norway, Switzerland, Iceland, Liechtenstein); and the European microstate countries (Andorra, Monaco, and Vatican City) and the United States.
In relation to arrivals from the United States, it was agreed that the policy approach will be that: only people fully vaccinated with FDA-approved vaccines in the US rollout, who can present a CDC card as proof of vaccination, would be included. A requirement to prove residency in addition to the CDC card for US arrivals was agreed, to mitigate against fraud.
From 31 July, international cruises will restart in line with the traffic light system, with strong guidance to the sector outlining the need to manage increased risks and maintain risk mitigations (including use of vaccination and testing), alongside continued monitoring of cruise data and clear contingency plans.
Measures will be put in place to facilitate alternative managed isolation arrangements for international student arrivals from red list countries from 9 August.
From 2 August, a bespoke testing regime will be implemented, which will apply to NI international arrivals exempt from self-isolation because they are travelling for work. This will only apply to specific types of work as outlined in the regulations.
An exemption from self-isolation for Villarreal fans and UEFA VIPs travelling for the Super Cup Final on 11 August will be put in place, with the IFA putting in place a range of mitigations.
The Executive has also announced it will publish a recovery plan tomorrow to 'accelerate economic, health and societal recovery in the short term so we can emerge stronger and also to transform and innovate to plan now for longer term ambitions'.
A spokesperson for the NI Executive said it remained concerned about the virus and its transmissibility.
"The virus remains a risk to our health and economic wellbeing and the steps taken today must be seen in that context," they said.
"The Executive calls on all venues, customers and attendees to be mindful of this in organising and attending events, and to follow all the public health advice on matters such as hand washing, wearing of face coverings, the benefits of taking lateral flow tests, and the essential need to self-isolate if you have a positive test or are otherwise asked to do so.
"We continue to urge all people who can to get both doses of the vaccine as soon as possible to help protect yourself and others. Information is available at nidirect.gov.uk/covidvaccine as to where you can walk in for a jab or book an appointment."
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