STORMONT ministers have this afternoon agreed to drop the use of vaccine passports in hospitality settings from midday on Wednesday, January 26.
The move is part of several relaxations to COVID-19 rules across the North of Ireland’s.
It means proof of Covid status in pubs, restaurants and cinemas will no longer be legally required from January 26.
The system will remain in place for nightclubs, and indoor unseated and partially seated events with 500 or more people.
A range of measures were agreed during a remote meetig of the Executive as the First Minister Paul Givan and Deputy First Mimister Michelle O’Neill were in Derry for the day.
In a tweet he has since deleted, First Minister Paul Givan said: “The Northern Ireland Executive has agreed to lift restrictions on the 21st & 26th January and reduced the areas Covid Passports will be legally required to nightclubs and indoor unseated events with 500+ people.
“This is welcome progress.”
For face coverings, the requirement to show proof of exemption will be lifted and the reasonable excuse of “severe distress” will be brought back.
Mr Givan has already said that a rule making people prove they are exempt has been suspended, as well as cutting the self-isolation period from seven to five days from Friday.
Ministers have also agreed to remove rules on table service in hospitality businesses and the so-called “rule of six” per table from midday on Friday.
Hospitality businesses will still be advised in guidance to retain use of Covid certification.
The guidance limit of three households allowed to meet indoors in a private home is also to be removed from Friday, January 21, under the changes.
Under the plan, nightclubs have also been given the green light to reopen from Wednesday, January 26, with dancing and indoor standing events permitted again.
Mr Givan also said the next executive meeting on 10 February would be an “important one” when other measures would be discussed, adding he wanted to see movement on the wearing of face masks.
The Stormont executive as a whole had to agree the latest proposed relaxations, with the first and deputy first ministers chairing the meeting virtually while on a visit to the north west.
Ministers have been indicating they hoped to be able to announce a further easing of restrictions, with the Omicron variant thought to have reached a peak of hospital admissions a few days ago.
Stormont ministers have been advised there may be a “secondary peak” in cases in the next two weeks as a result of further spread in school-age children.
However the advice from health officials also states it is likely current measures will be “sufficient” to manage hospital admissions and intensive care admissions, and deaths are not expected to rise significantly due to Omicron being less severe than previous variants.
Fresh curbs were introduced in December amid fears over the Omicron variant of the virus.
The restrictions came into place just after Christmas in a bid to manage a surge in cases of the Omicron variant.
Existing measures ‘sufficient’
Proof of Covid certification has been legally required in certain settings in Northern Ireland since 13 December, with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) the only party in the executive opposed to its use.
Ministers met to agree the changes, with the first and deputy first ministers chairing the meeting virtually while on a visit to the north-west on Thursday.
Ministers had been indicating they hoped to be able to announce a further easing of restrictions, with the Omicron variant thought to have reached a peak of hospital admissions a few days ago.
Stormont ministers were advised that there may be a “secondary peak” in cases in the next two weeks as a result of further spread in school age children.
However the advice from health officials also states that it is likely current measures will be “sufficient” to manage hospital admissions and that ICU admissions and deaths are not expected to rise significantly, due to Omicron being less severe than previous variants.
Stormont’s First Minister Paul Givan said his party – the DUP – had never supported their introduction.
“I will support reduction of its use but my preference is that the Covid mandatory passport scheme is removed in its entirety,” he told the BBC’s Good Morning Ulster programme.Tags: