Coronavirus: Business closures and restrictions in Northern Ireland

News article

Health protection measures to help reduce the rate of transmission of COVID-19 place restrictions on businesses and services 

The current coronavirus restrictions are law through regulation, while others are guidance. Everyone is legally required to comply with the regulations.

If you fail to comply with the regulations without reasonable excuse, you are committing an offence. For some offences, you may be given a fixed penalty or a fine on summary prosecution.

This page is an overview of what you can and cannot do. It is not a definitive statement of the law and should not be relied upon as such.

The regulations will be reviewed on or before 8 July 2021.

Anyone who can work from home should work from home.

Those who cannot work from home, for example, workers in food production, construction, manufacturing, logistics or distribution can continue to go to work.

Employers should take every possible step to facilitate their employees working from home. They must also take all reasonable steps to safeguard the health, safety and well-being of employees during the COVID-19 emergency, whether working from home or in the workplace.

Employers that require staff to come into the workplace must complete a mandatory risk assessment. Some employers may have introduced regular COVID-19 testing for employees as part of these measures.

All business and venues that are in operation should follow guidelines on working safely.

Meeting others for work and business purposes
You can meet other people indoors where it is necessary for your work.

Hospitality

Hospitality venues (cafes, restaurants, bars, pubs, social clubs, including members’ clubs) are permitted to open.

A maximum of six people can be seated together. Children aged 12 and under are not counted in the total. More than six will be permitted if they all belong to a single household, as long as it is not more than 10. Children aged 12 and under are not counted in the total.

Venues will also be required to collect customer details to help with the Test, Trace, Protect contact tracing programme.

Customer details will include the:

  • name and telephone number of each visitor over the age of 16
  • date and time of arrival

Face coverings must be worn if you leave your table (to pay/ to access toilet facilities), unless exempt.

There must be no live music or dancing. Ambient music should be at a level that permits normal conversation.

A person responsible for a hospitality business must take reasonable measures to ensure that social distancing measures are maintained at all times to limit the risk of transmission of the coronavirus.

An indicative date of 5 July 2021 has been set to allow live music, at ambient levels (music should be at a level that permits normal conversation). Dancing is not permitted.

The indicative date of 5 July is subject to review on 1 July 2021.

Accommodation

All types of tourism accommodation can open, including shared facilities on caravan sites and in hostels.

Up to six people from no more than two households can stay together overnight. Children aged 12 and under are not counted in the total.

If a household has more than six members the number staying together can be greater than six, as long as it is not more than 10 (children aged 12 years and under are not counted in the total).

Accommodation providers will be required to collect customer details to help with the Test, Trace, Protect contact tracing programme.

Customer details will include the:

  • name and telephone number of each visitor over the age of 16
  • date and duration of stay

Accommodation providers which sell or provide food or drink (whether or not including intoxicating liquor) for consumption on the premises must have carried out a risk assessment and take all reasonable measures to limit the risk of transmission of COVID-19.

Entertainment, leisure activities and cultural attractions

Outdoor and indoor visitor attractions are permitted to open (theatres and concert halls are not included) and are subject to the requirements on gatherings to determine the maximum numbers permitted access.

You must wear a face covering when you go to any indoor public space, unless exempt.

Venues will be required to collect customer details to help with the Test, Trace, Protect contact tracing programme.

Customer details will include the:

  • name and telephone number of each visitor over the age of 16
  • date and time

Theatres and concert halls are permitted to open for rehearsals or a live recording without an audience.

An indicative date of 5 July 2021 has been set for the return of audiences in theatres, concert halls and other venues, as well as the return of conferences and exhibitions.

Live music will be permitted, without restriction to volume, for rehearsal, recording or performance purposes in concert venues, theatres and other indoor venues which, for the duration of the rehearsal, recording or performance are set aside for that purpose.

Live music events must be effectively controlled and managed. If the event is taking place in a venue that is part of larger premises (such as a hotel) it must be sufficiently isolated to ensure the volume of music in the venue does not breach ambient levels in other parts of the premises. Dancing is not permitted for audience members.

Entry to performances will be by ticket only, purchased in advance.

Audiences for indoor events must have allocated seating and guests must remain seated, (unless using facilities).

A maximum of six people can be seated together. Children aged 12 and under are not counted in the total.

An indicative date of 5 July has also been set to allow live music and dancing at outdoor events, without restriction to volume.

Social distancing at a minimum of one metre will be required for live music-related activity in indoor seated venues and will be advised for all outdoor events.

The indicative date of 5 July is subject to review on 1 July 2021.

Close contact services

Close contact services, such as hairdressers, beauticians, make-up and nails, tattoo and piercing parlours, tanning shops, massage, electrolysis, well-being and holistic treatments, (including those provided from a mobile setting) can reopen, strictly by appointment.

Close contact businesses are required to collect customer details to help with the Test, Trace, Protect contact tracing programme.

Driving instruction, theory tests and driving tests are permitted.

An indicative date of 5 July 2021 has been set to enable close contact services to open without appointments but with remaining mitigations.

Retail

All shops can reopen - find more guidance on reducing the risk of spreading COVID-19 in reopening retail businesses.

There are no longer any additional restrictions in place on alcohol sales, normal licensing laws now apply.

Work carried out in private homes and other services

Unless they are specifically required to close under the regulations, workers, builders, tradespeople and other professionals can continue to go into people’s houses to carry out work such as repairs, installations and deliveries. 

Music lessons and private tutoring are permitted, as long as social distancing is maintained and there is no close contact.

Estate agents are permitted to remain open to facilitate the buying and selling of property, including associated activities such as the viewing of properties.

Household waste and recycling centres are permitted to remain open.

Equine Assisted Therapy and Learning (EATL) may resume on an indoor and outdoor basis in gatherings of up to 30 people.

Childcare

Childcare can continue to be provided by a person registered in accordance with the Children (Northern Ireland) Order 1995 or any childcare provided free of charge. 

Informal childcare arrangements are also permitted to continue.

Sports

Outdoor sport
All outdoor sport, whether organised formally by your local sports club or informally by a group of friends, is permitted.

The maximum number of participants, including coaches and support staff, is limited to 500 people and the maximum number of spectators is limited to 500 people. 

Risk assessments, as set out in the regulations, must be completed where there will be between 31 and 500 participants and/or spectators in attendance.

Indoor sport
Indoor sport and leisure venues are permitted to open, subject to risk assessment conditions, as set out in the Public Health Regulations, hygiene measures, social distancing and other mitigations.

Permitted indoor venues include:

  • leisure centres
  • gyms
  • swimming pools
  • equestrian centres
  • venues relating to motor sports
  • activity centres

Group exercise/ training and indoor club training in squads is permitted. A risk assessment, as set out in the regulations, must be completed where there will be over 15 people taking part.

Indoor 'competitive sport' is not permitted unless participants are elite athletes.

Changing rooms and shower facilities can be opened, but you should avoid or minimise use where possible (for example, by arriving in kit and showering at home) and minimise time spent in the changing area.

The return to sport protocols put in place by sports governing bodies should be strictly adhered to including hygiene measures, social distancing and other mitigations.

Any behaviour which may encourage the risk of transmission around sports activities, such as car sharing, the congregation of people on the sidelines and sporting celebrations, should be avoided. 

Sports governing bodies have a responsibility to ensure full compliance with the protocols and are expected to put arrangements in place to deal with non-compliant clubs, participants and coaches.

From 31 May, competitive indoor sport (subject to risk assessment and appropriate mitigations) will be permitted.

Guidance and restrictions for businesses that may open

Shops and enclosed shopping centres (see list of essential retail businesses above) must take reasonable measures to ensure compliance with social distancing rules.

These measures include:

  • providing information on how to minimise the risk of exposure to and the spread of coronavirus
  • ensure anyone within your venue maintains a distance of two metres from others (unless members of the same or a linked household) by altering the layout if necessary
  • ensure anyone queueing to enter maintains a distance of two metres from each other (unless members of the same or a linked household)
  • regularly cleaning, maintaining hygiene in your venue and regularly sanitising points of frequent use (eg entry barriers, card terminals)

Where it is not reasonably practicable for a social distance of two metres to be maintained, businesses must take reasonable steps to ensure that:

  • any close face to face contact is limited between persons
  • barriers or screens are installed and maintained
  • personal protective equipment is used where appropriate and in such a case is made readily available

Face coverings

The use of face coverings is required in certain indoor settings across Northern Ireland. This includes shops, shopping centres, public, private transport services, taxis, airplanes, public transport stations and airports and banks and some government offices. Read further guidance on face coverings.

Workplace safety

For guidance and practical steps on keeping your workplace COVID-19 secure, see working safely in different business settings and workplace safety guidelines and social distancing.


First published 24 March 2020