Following an increase in coronavirus (COVID-19) cases, additional restrictions have been introduced for people living in Northern Ireland. These are aimed at limiting the chances for the virus to spread between households.

From 6.00 pm on 22 September 2020 the following restrictions will be introduced for all households in Northern Ireland:

Coronavirus (COVID-19) regulations guidance: what the restrictions mean for you

Since 28 March 2020 various health protection regulations have been in place to help reduce the spread coronavirus and bring the epidemic to an end as soon as possible. This page explains what the current regulations and restrictions mean for you.

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Regulations

The regulations are available on the Department of Health website:

Restrictions

From 6.00 pm on 22 September 2020 the following restrictions will be introduced for all households in Northern Ireland:

  • no mixing of households in private dwellings, with exemptions for:
    • bubbling with one other household
    • caring responsibilities including childcare
    • building or maintenance work, or the services of any trade or profession
    • supported living arrangements
    • visits required for legal or medical purposes
    • a business operating from a person’s home
    • a funeral
    • a house move
    • marriage or civil partnership ceremony in a private dwelling where one partner is terminally ill
  • no more than six people to gather in a private garden from no more than two households – children aged 12 and under from those two households are not counted in this total

Meeting indoors

Households are no longer allowed to mix indoors in private homes. This is because meeting friends and family indoors carries a higher risk than meeting outdoors.

Children whose parents do not live in the same household can move between homes as normal.

Meeting outdoors in private gardens

Up to six people from no more than two households can meet up outdoors in a private garden, but you should maintain social distancing.

Social distancing is essential to prevent further waves of the epidemic.

Indoor and outdoor gatherings

You should avoid visiting places where there is a chance that large numbers of people will gather and crowds will form.

Gatherings indoors or outdoors, not in a private dwelling, of up to 15 people are permitted.

The limit for gathering indoors and outdoors does not apply to gatherings of a particular nature, including those organised:

  • for cultural, entertainment, recreational, outdoor sports, social, community, educational, work, legal, religious or political purposes 

or

  • for an indoor sporting event or activity, provided the arena in which it takes place is not capable of accommodating more than 5,000 spectators

The organiser must have carried out a risk assessment which meets the requirement of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2000 and take all reasonable measures to limit the risk of transmission of the coronavirus.

Medically-vulnerable and older people

Since 31 July 2020, shielding for extremely vulnerable people has been paused. Updated guidance for individuals who were shielding is available:

Given the rise in the levels of COVID-19, medically vulnerable and older people are asked to be particularly careful in following the advice on limiting household contacts, social distancing, hand washing and wearing a face covering.

Work and services carried out in private homes

Workers, builders, trades people and other professionals can continue to go into people’s houses to carry out work such as repairs, installations and deliveries. 

People who run a business from their own home can continue to carry out their work with appropriate safety measures in place. Any visits should be risk-assessed and in line with relevant guidance.

Education settings

Keeping schools open is a major priority and that is one of the reasons why restrictions have been introduced in other areas of life to help protect schools and keep them open.

Higher and further education, schools and early learning/ childcare settings are not affected by the current regulations.

Visits to hospitals and care homes

Visiting to care homes and hospitals may be curtailed. 

More frequent visits may be permitted in exceptional circumstances, including palliative care facilities and those receiving end of life care.

Funerals

Funerals can continue to take place, in line with guidance on managing funerals and associated gatherings(external link opens in a new window / tab) .

The size of the venue will determine the maximum number that can attend the service safely whilst observing social distancing of at least two metres, wherever possible.

It is recommended that face coverings are used for indoor services.

For information about the City of Belfast Crematorium, visit the Belfast City Council website(external link opens in a new window / tab).

Any mourner displaying symptoms of COVID-19 should not attend a funeral, as they pose a risk to others.

The Public Health Agency has produced a number of useful documents to help bereaved families during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Marriages and civil partnerships

Marriages and civil partnerships can continue to take place, in line with the current restrictions.

A marriage or civil partnership where one partner is terminally ill can take place in a private dwelling.

Numbers attending indoor ceremonies and post-ceremony celebrations will be determined by the venue on a risk assessed basis, taking account of the individual circumstances of each and adhering to all relevant public health advice and industry guidance.

Guidance has been developed to help plan the celebrations and is available on the NI Executive website(external link opens in a new window / tab).

Places of worship

No changes have been made to the operation of places of worship.

Travel

Everyone is asked to be mindful of the risks of spreading the virus by travel and should use their judgement when deciding whether or not to undertake a journey based on the individual circumstances.

There is guidance to help you understand how to travel safely during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. This includes when using public transport, walking, cycling and travelling by car:

Penalties

Action will be taken against those that break these rules, including asking people to disperse and issuing fixed penalty notices.

The current penalties are:

  • a fixed penalty notice of £60.00 (reduced to £30.00 if paid within 14 days)
  • for subsequent offences the fixed penalty will double each time up to a maximum of £960
  • if court proceedings are taken, the fine available on summary conviction is up to £5,000 (level five on the standard scale)

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