She told a briefing at Stormont that while “everybody’s objective should be to stay 2m apart from those from other households wherever possible”, it would be an important move particularly to support the hospitality sector.
“A minimum 1m distance between individuals can be considered acceptable in circumstances where appropriate mitigations are made,” she explained.
The First Minister also announced the NI Executive has agreed indicative dates for the further easing of coronavirus lockdown measures, including the reopening of gyms, leisure centres, libraries and the resumption of competitive sport.
She said: “Some of the proposed areas incorporated in the timetable include betting shops from the 3rd of July, additional close contact services, such as tattoo parlours, reflexology and complementary therapies from the 6th of July, indoor gyms and outdoor playgrounds from the 10th of July, libraries from the 16th of July.”
Competitive sport, she added, can resume from July 17, with leisure centres and soft play areas allow to reopen from 7 August.
First Minister Arlene Foster says the change in the executive’s guidance on social distancing is a “policy decision” and “the science hasn’t changed”.
She says reducing the distance from 2m to 1m was a move that ministers have “ruminated about for quite some time” and is about the “management of risk” with low transmission rates of the virus in Northern Ireland.
“The reason why we believe we can move to the 1m is in relation to having other mitigations in place to manage that risk,” she says.
“Nothing is risk free in this scenario and therefore it is important that the hospitality and tourism sector continues to work with the executive to find the appropriate mitigations for their particular areas,” Mrs Foster continued.
“Obviously hand hygiene remains a key part of that, having sanitisers.
“How the different hospitality venues are actually repurposed, how people are sitting at tables, whether there’s a need for having perspex in certain areas, all of these things will be looked at with the hospitality industry.”