Prime Minister Paul Givan welcomed the easing of restrictions, especially for the hospitality sector, which he said had been hit hard during the pandemic.
He said: “I am happy that at the end of this month they will be able to operate in a much more sustainable and viable manner. “
Mr Givan said the industry enjoys a “high level of buy-in” to restrictions on coronaviruses, adding that he believes this will continue.
Deputy Prime Minister Michelle O’Neill said she was happy progress has been made, but people should remain cautious.
“We are in an uncertain time to come and we have to work our way through this to the best of our ability,” she said.
Ms O’Neill said continuing to increase immunization rates would also be a “crucial” part of the executive’s winter planning.
The restriction changes from October 14:
-New relaxations around the numbers allowed in private dwellings and a move away from the maximum number of people allowed to gather from 15 from four households to an overall ceiling of 30
-The requirement for members of the public to be seated when watching performances in indoor venues will be removed
Regulations for large house parties and raves will remain in place and are still not allowed
The executive said that in the coming weeks, more work will be done with sectors to prepare for the appropriate mitigation measures to be put in place before new regulations are lifted.
Changes to restrictions from October 31 (with mitigating measures):
-Allow people to move around reception areas and indoor areas, including being able to stand up for drinks and food
-The restriction on indoor dancing will be lifted
-The need to maintain a social distance in reception establishments, such as pubs and restaurants, will shift to orientation. While the legal requirement for social distancing will now be removed, people are urged to keep close face-to-face contact to a minimum at all times.
– Nightclubs will be allowed to reopen
In a statement, the executive said: “The use of mitigation measures is essential to ease the restrictions and there has been a commitment across sectors on the partnership effort required to facilitate the relaxations.
“These relaxations are based on the adoption and implementation of measures that will help reduce the transmission of the virus and allow people to congregate more safely in environments that would otherwise be considered higher risk.”
“Significant engagement has taken place with the arts, entertainment and hospitality sectors and there has been a positive response to taking additional steps to ensure the safety of guests, staff and the wider community. . “
It is strongly recommended that venues and event planners require individuals to demonstrate one of the following:
– Proof of having been fully vaccinated for more than two weeks
-Proof of a negative PCR test or rapid lateral flow test performed within 48 hours of entering a location (a home lateral flow test should be reported in the public reporting system
-Evidence of a positive PCR test result for COVID-19 within the previous 180 days and after the end of the self-isolation period
The executive added, “Some sites are already implementing these measures to help keep people safe and to provide assurance to those who frequent their sites that all appropriate steps are being taken to protect them.
“As we break out of restrictions, it requires both personal and sectoral responsibility. Much of this is a partnership effort and the Covid Executive Working Group will work with sectors before regulations are lifted to ensure the appropriate mitigation measures are in place. ”
Ministers also discussed fall-winter Covid contingency planning and the options available to the executive in the event of an increase in the number of cases or unsustainable pressure on our hospitals.
The options include:
-Have available the capacity to issue a Covid status certification in certain contexts if this was deemed desirable and appropriate
-The potential to tighten the provisions for self-isolation or minimum social distancing in high-risk settings
-Fresh and consistent messages on safe behaviors focused on maximizing vaccination, the need for effective ventilation and the importance of wearing a face covering, especially in crowded and enclosed environments
The executive also called on the public to continue making “safer choices” by following public health advice such as wearing face coverings, washing hands and getting vaccinated.
They said: “We have come a long way through exceptionally difficult times – all of our lives have been changed in ways previously unimaginable.
“But we have made great strides and have been able to remove the vast majority of necessary measures that prevented us from doing things we once took for granted. “