Coronavirus update

Executive announces further easing of restrictions
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Northern Ireland Executive ministers and their officials have over the past 24 hours been involved in a number of initiatives and critical decisions relating to the Coronavirus emergency.

Gyms, cinemas, bingo halls and outdoor playgrounds are to reopen and competitive sport will resume under lockdown easements approved by Executive ministers today.

Ministers approved at yesterday’s meeting:

- The reopening of indoor fitness studios and gyms; bingo halls and amusement arcades; outdoor leisure playgrounds, courts and gyms; and cinemas from tomorrow (July 10).
- The resumption of horse racing and outdoor equestrian competitions and outdoor competitive games and sporting events from July 11 for grassroots and professional sport but with no spectators allowed.
- Amendments to the International Travel Regulations, removing the need for self-isolation for those travelling to Northern Ireland from low to medium risk countries.

Ministers also ratified earlier commitments relating to:

- The resumption of indoor weddings and baptisms in places of worship from tomorrow (July 10).
- The resumption from tomorrow of marriage and civil partnership services in local government offices and other venues.
- The mandatory use of face coverings on public transport from tomorrow unless someone is in an exempt group.
- The reopening of libraries from July 16, with protocols enacted to ensure social distancing.
- The reopening of indoor sport and leisure facilities, including skating rinks and leisure centres on July 17, but excluding swimming pools.

The decision to resume competitive sport from this weekend and reopen indoor sports facilities next week was welcomed by the Communities Minister, Carál Ní Chuilín.

However the Minister stressed the resumption of sporting activities was on the basis that governing body protocols are in place and are adhered to and that everyone takes responsibility for and complies with the hygiene and social distancing directives. 

Minister Ní Chuilín said: “These decisions are based on the latest scientific and health advice and it is more important than ever to emphasise that everyone has a personal responsibility to follow the guidance and to protect those around them. I trust that sports people, clubs and Governing Bodies are compliant with the guidance that is out there.  We all want to enjoy taking part in sport once again and look forward to attending sporting events when it is safe to do so.”

The Minister noted the announcement followed the injection of an additional £2million in funding last week to enable people and communities to get back to enjoying their sport safely. 

She added: “I would hope that further relaxations and news on return for spectators to sporting events will be announced in due course.”

Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Minister Edwin Poots paid tribute today to the work of Rural Support during the Covid-19 pandemic with farm businesses and families.

The Minister, who recently met the new CEO of Rural Support, Veronica Morris and its chair, John Thompson, revealed he had been presented with the findings of a recent survey undertaken by the organisation which highlighted concerns from financial pressures, isolation, loneliness to mental and physical health.

Arguing the survey would inform new initiatives to directly address those issues, Minister Poots said: “Rural Support bring a wide range of skills to support people in rural areas from providing business advice, mentoring, mental health support, and help with general farming issues, and have worked tirelessly to help those in need during the Covid-19 pandemic. I am also very pleased that Rural Support will be taking forward a number of new initiatives to help with the Covid recovery including the ‘The Business of Farming’ project – a programme of meetings, workshops and one to one support that will be launched in October across Northern Ireland, helping farmers and their families post Covid-19 and looking beyond that to Brexit in terms of challenges and opportunities. I wish to take this opportunity to give my sincerest thanks to everyone at Rural Support for their hours of dedication during the pandemic to help our rural communities to get through it.”

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