Health officials recommend no change to Northern Ireland Covid rules

Ministers are holding their first face-to-face meeting in almost a year at Stormont.

Health officials recommend no change to Northern Ireland Covid rules

Health officials have recommended that no changes should be made to remaining Covid-19 regulations and guidance in Northern Ireland.

A first face-to-face Executive meeting in almost a year has begun, with Stormont ministers set to consider the advice from chief medical officer Dr Sir Michael McBride and chief scientific adviser Professor Ian Young.

Remaining restrictions in Northern Ireland include social distancing and mask wearing in some indoor hospitality and retail settings.

A number of ministers had previously indicated that they did not expect any major changes to be made to Covid rules at Thursday’s meeting.

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Northern Ireland’s chief scientific adviser Professor Ian Young has delivered recommendations to Stormont ministers on Covid rules (Press Eye/PA)

Ministers gathered at Stormont for the meeting, which is expected to last for several hours.

They are set to consider the health advice contained in an Executive Office paper which recommends no changes should be made to current rules.

The nine areas still covered by regulations or guidance are:

– Domestic setting restrictions

– A ban on large house parties and indoor raves

– Working from home messaging

– The need to be seated to consume food and drink in a hospitality setting

– The need to be seated at indoor music events and the ban on dancing

– The requirement to wear face coverings in indoor areas such as retail and public transport

– Social distancing indoors

– The need to carry out risk assessments to stage events

– The requirement to take contact details in certain settings.

At the meeting, ministers will also discuss changes to the travel framework.

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SDLP leader Colum Eastwood has called for vaccine passports to be introduced for entry into hospitality settings in Northern Ireland (Liam McBurney/PA)

But changes to pre-travel and post-arrival testing have not yet been introduced in Northern Ireland and will be discussed by ministers.

Ministers are also likely to discuss mitigating measures including the introduction of vaccine certificates to gain access to bars and restaurants, although no final decision is expected to be made on this at the meeting.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood has called for the introduction of vaccine passports, which hospitality groups have resisted.

He said: “The truth is that we have two choices – increase vaccinations or introduce restrictions.”

Earlier this week, First Minister Paul Givan and deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill both said they expected the Executive to take a cautious approach to Covid measures.

Coronavirus – Tue Sep 21, 2021
Northern Ireland’s First Minister Paul Givan and deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill both said they expected the Executive to take a cautious approach over Covid measures (Rebecca Black/PA)

Ms O’Neill said: “I think it has to be steady as you go, it has to be very cautious.”

On Wednesday Mr Swann warned about the current pressures hospitals in Northern Ireland are facing.

He said: “If all caution is dropped, then our health service crisis will deepen. It would in all likelihood be overwhelmed.”

During the Executive meeting, ministers will also be given a briefing by chair of the Climate Change Committee Lord Deben on climate change issues.

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