Nightclubs can reopen in Northern Ireland from October 31st

Social distancing in bars and restaurants to be scrapped while 1,276 Covid-19 cases reported

Stormont Ministers have agreed to remove a legal requirement for social distancing in bars and restaurants in Northern Ireland.

The one-metre rule will be removed for the hospitality sector on October 31st.

From the same date, nightclubs can also reopen.

Customers will be able to move around all hospitality premises freely again and dancing will be permitted once more.


The Executive will ask event organisers and venues to voluntarily introduce entry systems requiring patrons to either prove full vaccination or a negative lateral flow test, or evidence of a Covid-19 infection within the previous six months.

The decisions were taken when Ministers convened on Thursday to consider the remaining Covid-19 rules in Northern Ireland.

They also agreed a number of other relaxations.

Those include increasing the cap on the number of people who can gather in indoor domestic settings. The current limit of 15 people from no more than four households will increase to 30 people in total on October 14th.

On the same date, audience members will no longer need to be seated when watching indoor performances.

The October 31st date for the other relaxations affecting hospitality has been set to give Stormont officials sufficient time to engage with the sector on implementing mitigation measures.

Speaking to the media after the Executive meeting, First Minister Paul Givan said Ministers had discussed the pathway for easing the restrictions.

He said: “I’m pleased that by the end of October we will have had restrictions on a wide range of issues completed at that point.

“There will be three areas left; that will be the wearing of face coverings in some limited areas, when it comes to the retention of risk assessments and also the retention of data around visitors to venues and hospitality.

“They will be low-level mitigation measures which will stay in law, there will be guidance when it comes to a lot of the sectors that are operating across our society and economy that will remain in place in a voluntary guidance format.”

He added: “By the end of October we will have moved to the point where there are three areas that we will continue to look at over the course of the winter and will likely remain as low-level regulatory interventions.

“On October 14th we will have changes in terms of numbers around the domestic settings and tourist accommodation. That will be limited still in respect of house parties and raves. That will happen on October 14th and the remaining areas then at the end of October.

“The Deputy First Minister and I met with hospitality representatives this morning and we are very much wanting to have a partnership with them and that is why we are able to move forward with the social distancing being relaxed because of their commitments to us.”

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said it was wise to continue to be cautious and prudent.

She added: “There are measures which we don’t want to be in a place to introduce but we have to be ready for that just in case we get to that point.”

Ms O’Neill said that would include a vaccine passport and a return of social distancing.

“We’re going to do everything we can to avoid getting to that point,” she added.

During the meeting, it is understood Ministers were told by officials that indoor seated venues that have introduced vaccine/test proof entry requirements in recent weeks have seen a 99 per cent compliance rate among patrons.

Meanwhile, on Friday, Northern Ireland's Department of Health reported two further deaths of Covid-19 patients and another 1,276 confirmed cases of the virus.

On Friday morning, there were 360 Covid-positive patients in hospital, of whom 35 were in intensive care.

A total of 2,545,973 vaccines have been administered in total.

Around one in 130 people in Northern Ireland is estimated to have had Covid-19 in the week to October 2nd, according to the Office for National Statistics, down from one in 65 the previous week. – PA