Northern Ireland ministers agree further Covid relaxations on international travel

Northern Ireland ministers agree further Covid relaxations on international travel

The Northern Ireland Executive decided to relax some of the rules and guidance around social distancing. Picture: Brian Lawless/PA

Stormont ministers have agreed a series of Covid-19 relaxations on international travel and social distancing.

The Executive will follow a rule change adopted by other parts of the UK meaning that from Monday, travellers from the US, EU amber countries and a number of other nations, including Norway and Switzerland, who are fully vaccinated can enter without the need to quarantine.

France is excluded from the new arrangements amid concerns about the Beta variant of Covid-19.

Travellers at Belfast International Airport (Liam McBurney/PA)

The powersharing administration has also agreed to allow Uefa VIP guests and Villarreal fans to travel to attend the Super Cup in Belfast on August 11 without the need to isolate.

Chelsea fans travelling from England for the showpiece match are not subject to any travel restrictions.

Ministers have also agreed to the return of international cruise travel in and out of Northern Ireland from Saturday.

Managed isolation arrangements for international students arriving from red list countries ahead of the new academic term have also been approved. These arrangements will come into effect on August 9.

Ministers also signed off on a bespoke Covid-19 testing regime for international travellers whose jobs qualify them for isolation exemptions. This will come into effect on Monday.

During Thursday’s virtual meeting, the Executive also decided to relax some of the rules and guidance around social distancing.

All indoor settings will now apply a one-metre distance rule. This will bring retail and shopping centres, where a two-metre rule currently applies, into line with the regulation for other indoor venues such as hospitality outlets.

The Super Cup is being hosted at Windsor Park in Belfast (Liam McBurney/PA)

In outdoor settings, social distancing is not a requirement and is instead urged in guidance. The guidance had suggested two metres as an appropriate distance. Guidance will now change to urge a distance of between one to two metres.

Executive ministers have also extended a decision on allowing the return of live music at theatres and concert venues to cover other indoor venues, such as hotel function rooms and community halls.

There will be no restriction on volume level.

Dancing will not be permitted at indoor events and a social distance of one metre will be required.

Decisions around the use of face masks in schools and whether to allow the return of conferences and exhibitions have been pushed back to the Executive’s next meeting on August 12.

On Friday, the Executive will publish a cross-departmental plan aimed at accelerating economic, health and societal recovery following Covid-19.

The document draws together the plans already formulated by various Stormont departments into an all-encompassing blueprint.

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