New Northern Ireland Covid rules: Nightclubs to close, rule of six, and indoor mixing guidance

Nightclubs will have to shut their doors from Boxing Day. Credit: PA

Northern Ireland will close nightclubs from Boxing Day and reintroduce the rule of six at pubs and restaurants.

Leaders have also issued guidance around limiting household mixing in response to rising Omicron numbers.

Christmas Day celebrations are being spared in the measures - which include limits on numbers and the return to rules mandating table service at pubs and restaurants from December 26.

Stormont ministers announced the new set of rules and guidance following virtual discussions on Wednesday, as part of Northern Ireland's power-sharing agreement.

The Executive opted not to impose new restrictions on sports, as events will be allowed continue with no limits on capacities but subject to further review.

It comes as more than 100,000 new infections were recorded across the UK on Wednesday, in the highest case numbers since the beginning of the pandemic.

Some 3,231 new cases of the virus were confirmed in Northern Ireland Wednesday, a jump from 2,096 cases recorded on Tuesday.

It is the highest increase reported in Northern Ireland for a 24-hour period since Covid reporting began in April 2020.

The figures come amid stark warnings of soaring infection rates when the Omicron variant takes hold in the region

The death of three patients who had previously tested positive for Covid were also notified by the Department of Health on Wednesday.

New Northern Ireland Covid rules in full

Most rules and guidance will come into force from Boxing Day.

–Nightclubs will have to close from 6am on December 26.

– People will be urged to limit contacts in domestic settings to three households, by way of guidance rather than law.

-Customers will need to remain seated in hospitality settings like pubs and restaurants with 'rule of six' limits on the numbers seated at tables.

– Sporting events can continue with no limits on capacities but this will be reviewed on December 30. Guidance will be issued to those travelling to and from games, including not to car share.

– The existing work from home message is being ramped up and legislation introduced to require social distancing in workplace, with employers encouraged to have lateral flow testing procedures for staff coming to work.

Ministers are due to meet again on December 30 to review the steps.On Wednesday morning, there were 261 Covid-positive patients in hospital, of whom 34 were in intensive care.

The latest measures come after Northern Ireland's leadership introduced Covid passes at hospitality venues, tightened face mask rules, and issued work from home guidance earlier this month.

First Minister Paul Givan told Wednesday's press conference that while there are a significant number of new cases today, there has also been “good progress” in reducing hospital pressures.

“But we’re absolutely alert to the challenges that could come on our health service, and that’s why a number of the decisions have been taken today,” he said, describing the package of decisions as “balanced”.

Staff at the new Covid-19 vaccination centre at the Titanic Exhibition Centre in Belfast Credit: Liam McBurney/PA

“They’re proportionate based on where we are today but of course we continue to keep those measures under review, we have another meeting that is scheduled to take place on December 30 where we will look at these issues again in light of the prevailing circumstances we face.”

He urged that the public follow both regulations and guidance.

“For example when it comes to events, get your lateral flow before you go,” he said.

“We’re encouraging people to wear their face coverings even though it’s going to be outdoors and yes the risk is less outdoors compared to indoors but enhance those measures that you’re going to take.

“We would advise people not to be sharing transport in their cars travelling to these events but to limit that to household travel as a way to help minimise any potential spread.”