In Northern Ireland, places of worship can reopen and certain, small outdoor gatherings can commence

The Northern Ireland Executive announced today that further coronavirus restrictions can be lifted from today in the region. The news comes on the first day that Northern Ireland began to roll back its lockdown measures.

Watch - Executive announces:

>Outdoor gatherings of up to 6 will be allowed

>Places of worship can open for individual prayer

>Some outdoor activities will be permitted

*Social distancing and public hygiene must be observed*

— NI Executive (@niexecutive) May 18, 2020

Northern Ireland’s First Minister Arlene Foster said at a press briefing today, May 18, that the new relaxations come in line with scientific and medical advice.

Below are the relaxations that can commence in Northern Ireland provided that social distancing and public hygiene measures are observed. 

  • Places of worship can re-open for individual prayer
  • Drive-in religious services are permitted
  • Drive-in entertainment, such as cinema or concerts, are permitted
  • Outdoor activity where people do not touch shared, hard surfaces is permitted
  • Outdoor gatherings of up to six people from outside the same household are permitted
  • Golf courses can re-open

These measures come in addition to the ones that were announced last week:

  • garden centers can reopen
  • recycling centers can open and trips to such centers with household waste will now be considered an appropriate reason to travel
  • marriage ceremonies where one or both parties are terminally ill can proceed

During the briefing, Foster noted: “We are not, however, at the time just yet to allow people to meet other family members from other households indoors. We understand that’s going to disappoint some of you, but we would ask you to remain patient and trust that this Executive informed by the most up to date scientific and medical advice is in the best position to guide you.

“We will constantly review, and I give you that commitment."

Foster later added: “The relaxations we have been made possible by the vast majority of you faithfully following the public health advice on self-isolation, on shielding, on social distancing, and on limiting your activities in public and washing your hands thoroughly.

“They have been hard-won freedoms and it is vital that when you exercise those freedoms you do it in a way that does not put anybody else’s safety at risk."

Foster said moving forward must be done so “cautiously.”

Both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland began their slow rollbacks of coronavirus restrictions today, May 18. While the Republic of Ireland's roadmap for reopening, published on May 1, has tentative dates attached to it, Northern Ireland's plans do not, something which Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill says was "deliberate" to provide flexibility.

You can watch the entire press briefing from May 18 here: