Northern Ireland lockdown: what are the rules and when they will end?

The lockdown in Northern Ireland will continue for an extra four weeks, following the highest Covid weekly death toll in the country since the pandemic began. Under the restrictions, schools will remain closed until Friday March 5, with many pupils returning to class on March 8. Education Minister Peter Weir, however, has suggested that a phased return may be implemented, with children in exam years returning to the classroom first.  If the strain on hospitals does not ease sufficiently, the reopening of schools may be delayed until past Easter. The country entered an initial six-week-long lockdown on Boxing Day, after ministers agreed to reinstate the highest level of restrictions. The First Minister, Arlene Phillips, announced on Jan 21 that lockdown measures were to be been extended until March 5, with a further review of restrictions expected on Feb 18. However, ministers have been advised that restrictions may remain in place throughout the Easter holidays. Northern Ireland recorded its highest weekly coronavirus death toll in the week Jan 9-15, with another 156 fatalities recorded, the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (Nisra) said. The total number of Covid-related deaths up to January 15 was 2,186, Nisra figures show. The comparative number of deaths reported daily by the Department of Health to January 15 was 1,583. These figures are based on patients having previously tested positive for the virus, whereas the Nisra tally is based on information entered on death certificates completed by medical professionals. Arlene Foster emphasised that the future of restrictions was yet uncertain, but she urged that, "To not press forward would risk all of the hard-won gains." Credit: Kelvin Boyes/Press Eye/PA Wire Ministers echoed guidance from the UK Government, advising that restrictions will be eased in line with lessening pressures on the health service.  There have been 100, 741 confirmed Covid-19 cases across Northern Ireland, while first doses of the Covid-19 vaccine have been administered to 168,140 people as of Jan 27, according to the Government. The 'Stay at Home' order became legally enforceable from Jan 8. People can only leave home with a "reasonable excuse" such as for medical or food shopping, exercise and work that cannot be done from home. There was a slight relaxation of some measures on Jan 2, which saw changes to essential retail, exercise, and the hospitality industry. The 8 pm curfew was also lifted, meaning you can now shop in essential retail stores beyond 8 pm, and order takeaways up to 11 pm.  However, all close contact services and non-essential retail are not permitted to open their doors until March 5 according to current restrictions. All visitor attractions, gyms, and swimming pools will also remain closed. Ministers did not make 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. On Dec 22, Sinn Fein demanded that an island-wide travel shutout should be introduced in Ireland to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus variant that was discovered in the UK.  Deputy First Minister, Michelle O'Neill called on Taoiseach, Micheal Martin, to pursue a joined-up travel policy with the Stormont executive to prevent travel between Great Britain." A man walks past a mural supporting staff of the National Health Service amid the outbreak of the coronavirus disease in Belfast Credit: PHIL NOBLE/REUTERS What are the new rules?  As of  Jan 8, the rules are: Essential retail and hospitality services can now trade beyond the previous curfew hours of 8 pm. Delivery takeaway services are allowed until 11 pm.  Hospitality venues such as cafes, restaurants, pubs, bars and social clubs must remain closed, with the exception of providing food and drink for takeaway, drive-through or delivery. Close contact services such as hairdressers and beauty salons must close Gyms must close, with personal exercise only permitted outside  Churches can resume services, with weddings and funerals have a cap of 25 people Households are not allowed to mix indoors except for certain exceptions, including support bubbles, childcare and maintenance work Two households can gather in public spaces outdoors in groups of six, including children Indoor sports are banned except for professional athletes  Leisure and entertainment venues such as theatres, concert halls, cinemas, amusement arcades, bingo halls, bowling alleys and skating rinks must close Overnight stays are banned unless it is with a member of your bubble Higher education institutions, such as universities must deliver distanced learning  People should work from home unless unable to do so  On Jan 17, Stormont sources and hospitality bosses in Northern Ireland suggested that pubs will not open until the middle of April at the earliest. This comes from Ulster’s Chief of Hospitality, Colin Neill, who confe

Northern Ireland lockdown: what are the rules and when they will end?

The lockdown in Northern Ireland will continue for an extra four weeks, following the highest Covid weekly death toll in the country since the pandemic began.

Under the restrictions, schools will remain closed until Friday March 5, with many pupils returning to class on March 8. Education Minister Peter Weir, however, has suggested that a phased return may be implemented, with children in exam years returning to the classroom first. 

If the strain on hospitals does not ease sufficiently, the reopening of schools may be delayed until past Easter.

The country entered an initial six-week-long lockdown on Boxing Day, after ministers agreed to reinstate the highest level of restrictions.

The First Minister, Arlene Phillips, announced on Jan 21 that lockdown measures were to be been extended until March 5, with a further review of restrictions expected on Feb 18. However, ministers have been advised that restrictions may remain in place throughout the Easter holidays.

Northern Ireland recorded its highest weekly coronavirus death toll in the week Jan 9-15, with another 156 fatalities recorded, the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (Nisra) said.

The total number of Covid-related deaths up to January 15 was 2,186, Nisra figures show. The comparative number of deaths reported daily by the Department of Health to January 15 was 1,583.

These figures are based on patients having previously tested positive for the virus, whereas the Nisra tally is based on information entered on death certificates completed by medical professionals.

Arlene Foster emphasised that the future of restrictions was yet uncertain, but she urged that, "To not press forward would risk all of the hard-won gains."

Credit: Kelvin Boyes/Press Eye/PA Wire

Ministers echoed guidance from the UK Government, advising that restrictions will be eased in line with lessening pressures on the health service. 

There have been 100, 741 confirmed Covid-19 cases across Northern Ireland, while first doses of the Covid-19 vaccine have been administered to 168,140 people as of Jan 27, according to the Government.

The 'Stay at Home' order became legally enforceable from Jan 8. People can only leave home with a "reasonable excuse" such as for medical or food shopping, exercise and work that cannot be done from home.

There was a slight relaxation of some measures on Jan 2, which saw changes to essential retail, exercise, and the hospitality industry. The 8 pm curfew was also lifted, meaning you can now shop in essential retail stores beyond 8 pm, and order takeaways up to 11 pm. 

However, all close contact services and non-essential retail are not permitted to open their doors until March 5 according to current restrictions. All visitor attractions, gyms, and swimming pools will also remain closed.

Ministers did not make 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.

On Dec 22, Sinn Fein demanded that an island-wide travel shutout should be introduced in Ireland to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus variant that was discovered in the UK. 

Deputy First Minister, Michelle O'Neill called on Taoiseach, Micheal Martin, to pursue a joined-up travel policy with the Stormont executive to prevent travel between Great Britain."

A man walks past a mural supporting staff of the National Health Service amid the outbreak of the coronavirus disease in Belfast Credit: PHIL NOBLE/REUTERS

What are the new rules? 

As of  Jan 8, the rules are:

  • Essential retail and hospitality services can now trade beyond the previous curfew hours of 8 pm. Delivery takeaway services are allowed until 11 pm. 
  • Hospitality venues such as cafes, restaurants, pubs, bars and social clubs must remain closed, with the exception of providing food and drink for takeaway, drive-through or delivery.
  • Close contact services such as hairdressers and beauty salons must close
  • Gyms must close, with personal exercise only permitted outside 
  • Churches can resume services, with weddings and funerals have a cap of 25 people
  • Households are not allowed to mix indoors except for certain exceptions, including support bubbles, childcare and maintenance work
  • Two households can gather in public spaces outdoors in groups of six, including children
  • Indoor sports are banned except for professional athletes 
  • Leisure and entertainment venues such as theatres, concert halls, cinemas, amusement arcades, bingo halls, bowling alleys and skating rinks must close
  • Overnight stays are banned unless it is with a member of your bubble
  • Higher education institutions, such as universities must deliver distanced learning 
  • People should work from home unless unable to do so 

On Jan 17, Stormont sources and hospitality bosses in Northern Ireland suggested that pubs will not open until the middle of April at the earliest. This comes from Ulster’s Chief of Hospitality, Colin Neill, who confessed it was not likely that pubs would be open “for St Patrick's Day”. 

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 is being 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?

A new lockdown will begin in England at 00:01 on Jan 5, meaning travelling outside of the country will not be allowed until at least mid-February.

The executive have also issued new 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.