United Kingdom

Northern Ireland lockdown update: when Covid restrictions will be eased

As of Apr 15, 844,284 people have received their first dose of the vaccine, and 237,281 second doses have also been administered in Northern Ireland.

The vaccination programme has now been widened to those aged 40-44, with people being able to book a vaccine appointment from Apr 8.

All those who are eligible can book to receive their jab at a vaccination centre or participating community pharmacy, as well as the option of waiting for their GP to contact them to arrange their jab.

Robin Swann, Northern Ireland's Health Minister, said he would encourage everyone who is eligible to make arrangements as soon as possible.

It comes after Patricia Donnelly, the head of the vaccine rollout in Northern Ireland, said on Mar 18 that issues with AstraZeneca supply lines across the UK will not have a huge impact on the timeline for administering jabs in the region.

Ms Donnelly told the Assembly's Health committee that plans had been flexed to make more use of Pfizer jabs pending the arrival of further AstraZeneca stock.

She said all first jab appointments already booked will be honoured and those expecting a second jab will also receive it, while more people would continue to get first jabs in April but at a slightly reduced rate.

"I think, worst case scenario, it probably puts us back by four weeks," she told the committee.

"The mitigation measures that we put in place we hope will only delay us by two weeks, so it won't have a huge impact."

What are the rules? 

The Stormont Executive has agreed the following lockdown relaxations, beginning on April 23:

April 23

April 30

May 24 (indicative date)

How are the restrictions enforced?

The police are able to take action against those who break these rules, including asking people to disperse and issuing £100 fixed penalty notices. For repeat offenders, these fines can increase up to £3,200.

People aged 18 or over can be fined:

£200 for the first offence, lowered to £100 if paid within 14 days, £400 for the second offence, then doubling for each further offence up to a maximum of £6,400.

A new £800 fine has been implemented from Jan 25 for anybody who attends a gathering of more than 15 people. This fine, announced on Jan 21, will be doubled for each repeat offence.

Can I travel to Northern Ireland?

Boris Johnson announced a roadmap out of the restrictions back in Feb, which outlined how certain sectors will reopen. As part of these plans, the Prime Minister has stated that travelling outside of the country is not allowed until at least May 17.

The Executive have also issued guidance against all but essential travel between Northern Ireland, the UK and the Irish Republic.

People arriving in Northern Ireland should self-isolate for 10 days.

Hotels and other accommodation providers can operate on a restricted basis for those already resident, for work related purposes, for vulnerable people, those in emergency situations and people unable to return home.

Stormont's leaders said Northern Ireland can look to a brighter future as they announced a sweeping range of Covid-19 lockdown relaxations on Apr 15.

The reopening of the tourism and hospitality sectors were fast-tracked as part of a series of measures agreed by ministers on Thursday. The plan signed off by the devolved executive includes three key relaxation dates, April 23, April 30 and May 24.

Under the plans, hairdressers can reopen on April 23, pubs and cafes can serve people outdoors from April 30 and indoors from May 24.

From April 23, outdoor visitor attractions will be allowed to open and driving lessons can also resume, while non-essential retail and gyms will reopen on Apr 30.

Indoor dining and hotels will now reopen on 24 May, subject to coronavirus infection rates and a review that month.

First Minister Arlene Foster told a special sitting of the NI Assembly on Apr 15 that it was a "landmark day".

"We must also stress that while we are taking important decisions today, the virus is still with us," Mrs Foster said.

"It is still dangerous and we cannot drop our guard. People are still being infected, hospitals are still receiving patients and unfortunately people are still at risk of serious illness and death.

"So we ask everyone to be mindful. Step out, but step carefully."

This news follows the replacement of the "Stay At Home" requirement with a "Stay Local" and "Work from home" message after coronavirus restrictions were eased further in Northern Ireland on Apr 12.

The changes mean up to 10 people from no more than two households can now meet outdoors in a private garden.

Click and collect at all non-essential retail outlets is also allowed to take place, and outdoor retail such as car dealerships and garden centres can reopen. Outdoor sports training can resume for sports clubs with no more than 15 participants in one training group, while indoor club facilities, apart from toilets, are to remain closed.

The remainder of school children, years 8 to 11, were also allowed to return to classrooms on Apr 12 following the staggering reopening of schools in early March.

People planning weddings will be permitted to view potential venues for ceremonies at a limit of up to four people. The number of people allowed to attend such ceremonies will also increase, at a level informed by a risk assessment for the venue.

Ministers have not made travel outside of the country illegal, but instead issued guidance advising against non-essential travel between Northern Ireland and both Great Britain and the Irish Republic.

These measures form part of the Executive's Pathway Out Of Restrictions blueprint, which was signed on Mar 2. 

It includes five steps along nine pathways - retail; hospitality; education and young people; work; culture, heritage and entertainment; sports and leisure; travel and tourism; worship and ceremonies; and home and community.

The five stages of restriction begin with lockdown then extend to cautious first steps, gradual easing, further easing, and preparing for the future.

The Executive will review the progress of the pathway every four weeks.

Football news:

Lille is ahead of PSG by one point, Monaco-by 3 points for the round to the end of Ligue 1
Milan, Napoli and Juventus qualify for the Champions League in the round before the end of Serie A
Griezmann, ter Stegen, Langle and Pedri did not receive ratings from Marca for the game with Celta
Eibar relegated to Segunda after 7 years in the Primera, the last match of the season - with Barca
In La Liga, there is still fun: Barcelona pulled away, Atletico almost fell from first place (lost 0:1 on k 82nd)
Barcelona for the first time under Messi, three matches do not win at home in La Liga
Suarez scored the 10th winning goal of the La Liga season