Northern Ireland is making another step towards a return to normality as it eases some of its COVID restrictions from today, April 23.

As of today in Northern Ireland, close contact services can reopen, competitive outdoor sport and squad training can resume, driving instruction and tests can resume, static band practice/rehearsal is now permitted, and visitor attractions and activity centers can open.

Read more

Ahead of Friday's reopenings, First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill praised the region's preparations.

— NI Executive (@niexecutive) April 22, 2021

Foster said: “Thanks to the efforts of people across Northern Ireland, we are now ready to mark another steady but important step forward on our road to recovery.

“Our focus as we move out of restrictions has been on young people, families, wellbeing, and restarting our economy. The relaxations that are now coming into effect, and those that will follow before the end of the month, will make an enormous difference to the wellbeing of people and our economic recovery.

“I am grateful and proud to see the impressive levels of innovation and energy from businesses and organisations, across all sectors, to ensure a safe and smooth re-opening of services and activities.  We must all continue to do our bit to stop the spread of Covid-19 to enable us to keep moving forward.”

O’Neill said: “Tomorrow is a day that many have been looking forward to, as some of the things that are so important to people will open up again.

“The success of our vaccination programme, coupled with the efforts of the public, has enabled us to make good headway and we are beginning to see the benefits as we gradually restart our society. These next steps represent more positive progress.

"The relaxations coming into effect – from the reopening of our hairdressers, to the resumption of competitive sport – are good news for people’s physical and emotional wellbeing. And it’s great news for those businesses and workers who will be able to restart.

“Incredible work has taken place across sectors to ensure they are operating in the safest possible environment. We must all do everything we can to stay on top of the virus and support more progress.”

You can view all of Northern Ireland's current regulations and restrictions here via NI Direct.

From April 23:

  • Return of competitive outdoor sport and squad training. No spectators permitted.
  • Outdoor visitor attractions and activity centres open
  • Close contact services such as hairdressers and beauticians open
  • Driving instruction and tests permitted
  • Outdoor static band practice / rehearsal permitted

From April 30:

  • No more than 15 people from 3 households in private gardens
  • All retail open
  • Self-contained tourist accommodation open. No household mixing or shared facilities.
  • Outdoor hospitality open for 6 people from 2 households.
  • No curfew on takeaway / off-licenses
  • Gyms, swimming pools, and indoor exercise facilities open for individual use only

Indicative date of May 24 (to be confirmed):

  • Mixing of households in private dwellings
  • Hospitality open indoors (with mitigations)
  • All tourism accommodation open
  • Indoor visitor attractions open
  • Indoor group exercise and training (with mitigations)

While some restrictions are beginning to be rolled back across Northern Ireland, a travel advisory remains in place. People in Northern Ireland must not travel outside the Common Travel Area (UK, Republic of Ireland, Isle of Man, and Channel Islands) unless they have a legally permitted reason to do so.

For inbound travel to Northern Ireland, there are varying restrictions depending on whether or not a passenger is coming from or has traveled through a "red list" country. You can view more about Northern Ireland's inbound and outbound travel restrictions here.