Social distancing to be scrapped in bars and restaurants in Northern Ireland

Social distancing in bars and restaurants will be scrapped in Northern Ireland at the end of October Stormont ministers have agreed.

The move also paves the way for night clubs to reopen on the 31st.

Venues will be advised to check proof of vaccination of a negative lateral flow test before admission, but it will not be a legal requirement.

The limit on the number of people who can gather indoors at home will be increased from 15 to 30 next Thursday.

The same day the requirement for audience members to be seated during indoor performances will also be scrapped – meaning concerts with floor standing in the SSE Arena for example can resume.

First Minister Paul Givan said that a number of Covid restrictions would be relaxed in Northern Ireland by the end of October.

Speaking after a meeting of the Executive, he said: "The key area that we discussed obviously was the remaining restrictions that have been in place in terms of our pathway out of those measures, and also around our contingency autumn/winter plan as to how we can deal with a range of scenarios should they arise.

"I'm pleased that by the end of October we will have had restrictions on a wide range of issues completed at that point.

"There will be three areas left; that will be the wearing of face coverings in some limited areas, when it comes to the retention of risk assessments and also the retention of data around visitors to venues and hospitality.

"They will be low-level mitigation measures which will stay in law, there will be guidance when it comes to a lot of the sectors that our operating across our society and economy that will remain in place in a voluntary guidance format."

Mr Givan added: "By the end of October we will have moved to the point where there are three areas that we will continue to look at over the course of the winter and will likely remain as low-level regulatory interventions.

"On October 14 we will have changes in terms of numbers around the domestic settings and tourist accommodation. That will be limited still in respect of house parties and raves. That will happen on October 14 and the remaining areas then at the end of October.

"The deputy First Minister and I met with hospitality representatives this morning and we are very much wanting to have a partnership with them and that is why we are able to move forward with the social distancing being relaxed because of their commitments to us that they want to take forward the advice from us around mitigations, which have been in place for other indoor venues when it comes to vaccination, a positive PCR test within the past 180 days and also a lateral flow. We have had those commitments from the hospitality sector.”