Covid-19: North’s Ministers agree to further relax restrictions

Up to 1,000 spectators to attend Irish Cup final in Lurgan on May 21 as part of study

Northern Ireland’s Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill. At Thursday’s meeting, Ministers were told data around the virus ‘continues to have a generally positive direction of travel’. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Northern Ireland’s Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill. At Thursday’s meeting, Ministers were told data around the virus ‘continues to have a generally positive direction of travel’. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

 

Ministers in Northern Ireland agreed a number of further relaxations of Covid-19 rules on Thursday.

Issues around international travel and travel within the Common Travel Area were also discussed at the Executive meeting.

It was also agreed that up to 1,000 fans would be allowed to sign up to attend the Irish Cup final at Mourneview Park football stadium in Lurgan, Co Armagh on May 21st as part of a study to “inform the future safe return of spectators to large-scale venues”.

A number of measures have been put in place to permit fans to attend the match, including ticket-only access to enable contact tracing, Covid-19 tests required for spectators, teams and staff before and after the match, and no food or drinks served.

The plan, the North’s Deputy First Minister, Michelle O’Neill, said, had been “carefully designed to contribute to our bank of knowledge on the reopening of large-scale venues”.

At Thursday’s meeting, Ministers were told data around the virus “continues to have a generally positive direction of travel”.

A statement issued afterwards by the Executive Office said that “thanks to the efforts of the public and the continued success of our vaccination programme, we are in a position to signal a further set of relaxations”.

Hospitality

They also discussed a previous decision to reopen hospitality fully, with mitigations in place, on May 24th, and said this would be subject to ratification on May 20th.

As of May 24th, 500 spectators will be allowed at sports events, and also permitted will be indoor domestic gatherings, inter-schools sports events, the reopening of libraries and museums and indoor group exercise with limited numbers.

Wedding receptions and post-funeral events are also to be allowed indoors, subject to risk assessments. From June 21st, restrictions are to be removed on audiences in seated theatres, concert halls and other venues, subject to ratification next month.

On Thursday the North’s Department of Health reported one further death with coronavirus, bringing the total number of fatalities to 2,149.

An additional 99 cases of Covid-19 were identified.

On Thursday morning there were 46 inpatients in hospital who were Covid positive, with three in intensive care.