Northern Ireland's road map out of coronavirus lockdown revealed

Belfast general view as lockdown is extended for Northern Ireland to try to slow the spread of coronavirus.
The next stage incudes a partial return for schools, as well as the reopening of cafes and outdoor sports facilities. Credit: Presseye

Northern Ireland's road map out of lockdown has been revealed.

The plan is broken down into five stages, but does not follow specific dates.

Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill said this will be a "gradual and careful" reopening of nine key sectors.

They are: home and community, education and young people, worship and ceremonies, sports and leisure activities, work, retail, hospitality, travel and tourism, and culture, heritage and entertainment.

The Executive will review progress every month, which means that, if there are no setbacks, Northern Ireland should progress to the final stage by summer.

Ms O'Neill told the Assembly: "After each step we take, we will pause and reflect, look at the data and the impacts, engage with key sectors and enable them to reopen only if it is the right thing to do."

Northern Ireland is currently in Stage 1 which is 'lockdown'. Restrictions have been in place since 26 December for retail, hospitality and education, as well as travel, exercise, work and worship.

Stage 2 is called the 'Cautious First Steps' phase. It includes the reopening of cafes and outdoor sports facilities, plus:

  • Partial return of schools

  • Six people from two households can meet in private garden

  • Restart of click and collect services for non-essential retail

  • Reopening of cafes

  • Reopening of outdoor sports facilities

  • Church services to resume

Cafes are set to reopen by the end of Stage 2.

By the end of Stage 3, there will be more 'Gradual Easing' of restrictions:

  • Six people from two households can meet indoors

  • All pupils return to the classroom

  • Retail to fully reopen

  • Close contact services to reopen

  • Table service allowed in restaurants and pubs

  • Wet pubs to remain closed

  • Caravan sites, hotels and B&Bs to reopen

  • Indoor visitor attractions and libraries to reopen

  • Leisure centres to reopen

  • Phased return to offices

  • Small wedding receptions and funeral wakes allowed

By the end of Stage 3, all pupils will return to the classroom. Credit: PA

Stage 4 is called the 'Further Easing' phase which includes the reopening of wet pubs, plus:

  • Larger groups can meet indoors

  • Overnight stays allowed

  • More face-to-face teaching

  • Wet pubs to reopen with table service

  • Theatres and cinemas to reopen

  • Limited live music at weddings allowed

  • Some spectators permitted at some sports events

By the end of Stage 4, wet pubs can reopen with table service. Credit: PA

The final stage is called 'Preparing for the Future' and will see the limits on household gatherings lifted, as well as workplaces fully open:

  • No limit on household gatherings

  • Workplaces to fully open

  • Large outdoor concerts allowed

  • Bar service in pubs permitted

  • Nightclubs to reopen

  • Preparations for full return of leisure travel

By the end of Stage 5, nightclubs can reopen. Credit: ITV

Read more: Covid fines totalling £11,000 issued overnight in south Belfast

No dates

While the roadmap has been broadly welcomed by most sectors, some say a lack of dates brings with it a lack of certainty.

Hospitality Ulster expressed disappointment over part of the industry opening after non-essential retail.

Chief executive Colin Neill said: “We are really frustrated that this pathway shows no dates whatsoever and once again singles out our traditional wet pubs for extended closure.

"How are our pubs supposed to survive, and the industry plan for the re-emergence of the entire sector?”

  • First Minister Arlene Foster responds to criticism of no dates:

Belfast Chamber Chief Executive Simon Hamilton expressed concern over how long the journey to reopen the economy will take.

"Each step will, no doubt, be subject to Executive wrangling with businesses unable to plan properly. It is not too harsh to say that as far as offering both hope and certainty, this falls far short."

  • UTV has spoken to those working in the retail and hospitality sectors about the Executive's pathway out of lockdown plan:


One of the most divisive issues during the Northern Ireland lockdown has been schools.

UTV has spoken to parents, teachers and a union about the Stormont Executive's claim of getting children back into classrooms after Easter, if levels of transmission allow.

  • Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill says getting children back to school is a 'priority':

The road map to recovery is underpinned by four main criteria - the progress of the vaccine rollout, the R rate, test and trace data, and hospital admissions.