PEOPLE in the North of Ireland will be able to visit loved ones in hospital for the first time in months as part of further easing of lockdown.
Visiting rules at hospitals and care homes have been eased, with birth partners also allowed at maternity appointments.
The Department of Health said the revised guidance balances “the ongoing risk from Covid-19”.
From today, at hospitals, one visitor will be allowed per patient in general wards and intensive care units.
In care homes that are free from the virus, one person can visit at any one time, with a second person accommodated “where possible”.
Visitors to both hospitals and care homes will have to wear a face covering.
The department said decisions on allowing visitors will be made on a day-to-day basis by either the nurse in charge or the care home manager.
Birth partners will now be allowed to accompany women to a range of appointments, including pregnancy scans and for the duration of labour and birth.
The guidance also enables partners to visit in antenatal and postnatal wards.
The changes follow a review headed up by the chief nursing officer, Prof Charlotte McArdle.
The department said the public should be mindful of the “logistical challenges facing trusts and care homes” as they deal with more visitors while also countering the threat of Coronavirus.
On Friday, July 3, changes to the regulations allowed a range of sectors to reopen, including hotels, bars, restaurants, zoos, museums, galleries and bookmakers.
The Stormont Executive said: “Organisations should proceed at a speed which is safe and appropriate for their individual sites.”
The Executive will meet later today to discuss how to respond to the relaxation of quarantine requirements in England, where the government has agreed to open travel corridors to nearly 60 holiday destinations.