Coronavirus: Five-stage plan for exiting lockdown published in North

Easing of measures to be ‘led by science and not by the calendar’ as part of new roadmap

First Minister Arlene Foster (left) and Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill arrive at Stormont prior to announcing the Executive’s approach to coronavirus decision-making. Photograph: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

First Minister Arlene Foster (left) and Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill arrive at Stormont prior to announcing the Executive’s approach to coronavirus decision-making. Photograph: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

 

Northern Ireland will begin its exit from coronavirus lockdown starting with people being encouraged to return to their workplace and ending with the opening of restaurants, cafes and pubs, it was announced on Tuesday.

First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill outlined in the Northern Assembly on Tuesday their five-stage plan for ending the coronavirus restrictions.

Unlike the Republic, the recovery plan does not set out dates for each of the five steps. Executing the steps will be “led by science and not by the calendar”.

Ms Foster and Ms O’Neill made clear that moving from stage to stage will hinge on the level of transmission remaining below R1 – the “R” value currently stands at 0.8 in the North – and the capacity of the health and social care services to deal with the virus. The R value refers to the number of people, on average, each person with the virus goes on to infect.

The Ministers issued their plan on a day when the Department of Health reported that nine more people have died in Northern Ireland with the virus, also known as Covid-19, bringing the total number of fatalities to 447.

The department also reported that 44 more people tested positive for the virus, leaving the total number of confirmed cases at 4,193.

STEP 1

In step one people who are unable to work from home will be encouraged to return to work on a phased basis.

Large outdoor retail centres such as garden centres will be allowed to open.

Groups of four to six people can meet outdoors subject to social distancing and, with the exception of people who are shielding, visits to immediate family will be allowed indoors, again where distancing is being followed.

Drive-through church services will be permitted and churches can be open for private prayer.

Outdoor spaces and public sport amenities are to open while people can undertake activities such as walking, running, cycling, golf and tennis and some water activities. Drive-through cinemas can also open.

STEP 2

Non-food retail stores can open while groups of up to 10 can meet outdoors. Team sports training can resume on a non-contact basis in small groups.

Indoor activities involving limited contact of less than 10 minutes in duration will be permitted. Outdoor activities of less than 10 minutes involving small groups of less than 10 people where it may be difficult to maintain social distancing will be permitted.

Selected libraries and open-air museums can open.

Public transport will continue but in order to avoid crowded trains and buses people will be encouraged to walk and cycle for short journeys.

The definition of “key workers” will be extended so that more children of these workers can attend school.

STEP 3

There will be a phased return to office and onsite work.

On a part-time basis more children of “priority cohorts” will attend school.

In terms of family and community there can be gatherings of up to 30 people where distancing is maintained.

Indoor activities involving “larger” numbers of individuals who do not share a household connection will be allowed.

There will be a resumption of team sports training on a non-contact basis; museums, galleries and libraries will open and concert and theatre rehearsals will start again.

STEP 4

More retail centres can open such as hairdressers, fitness studios and tattoo/piercing businesses.

Schools will open for all children “on a part-time basis with a blended learning approach involving a combination of in-school and remote learning”.

A wider range of gatherings will be permitted including church services. There will be a resumption of competitive sports behind closed doors or “with limitations on the number of spectators”.

Leisure centres and other indoor facilities will open and outdoor concerts will be allowed on a restricted basis.

STEP 5

Everybody expected to return to work with remote working still strongly encouraged and maintained where possible.

Restaurants, cafes and pubs can open “subject to risk assessment, on a limited basis to start with”.

Early years school provision to be expanded to full-time basis.

Public transport operating a full service but “subject to ongoing risk assessment”.

People can meet in extended groups subject to social distancing.

There will be a resumption of close physical contact sports; a return to competitive sport and full use of sporting facilities; spectators can attend live events on a restricted basis; and nightclubs and concerts can resume on a limited basis.

Indoor gatherings of large numbers, and or more than 10 minutes, where social distancing cannot be easily maintained, will be permitted.

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