Coronavirus: Business closures and restrictions in Northern Ireland

News article

Measures to fight coronavirus place restrictions on businesses and services

Important: From Friday 16 October 2020 tightened restrictions are in force for a period of four weeks, until Friday 13 November.

To reduce the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), the Northern Ireland Executive has introduced measures which place restrictions on how businesses operate and which mean that some must close to customers on-site.

The relevant authorities, including the police, have been given the powers to enforce the measures – including through fines and dispersing gatherings.

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

Businesses which must close to customers on-site

If you are responsible for operating any of the following types of business you must keep it closed:

  • hairdressing or barbering
  • provision of beauty or aesthetics treatments including treatments in relation to nails or makeup
  • tattooing
  • tanning
  • services in spas
  • sports and massage therapy (except if provided to an elite athlete)
  • well-being and holistic therapies
  • dress fitting, tailoring and fashion design (unless social distance is maintained)
  • training in any of the services listed above, unless social distancing is maintained

(This also applies if you provide such close contact services from your home and in other people’s homes, or delivering such services in allied sectors such as the arts or entertainment, in retail environments, or if you are studying hair and beauty in a vocational training environment. It does not apply to any such service which is ancillary to a medical or health service or a social care service.)

  • a hotel or guest house except in relation to residents who are:
    • already resident on the date this schedule comes into operation
    • resident for work-related purposes
    • vulnerable people
    • unable to return to their private dwelling due to an emergency
  • cinemas (drive-in cinemas may operate)
  • nightclubs
  • museums and galleries
  • conference halls and conference facilities, including those in hotels
  • theatres and concert halls (except for rehearsal or live recording, in both cases without an audience)
  • driving instruction (for vehicles other than a motorcycle)
  • campsites and services for touring caravans
  • funfairs (whether outdoors or indoors)
  • indoor amusement arcades
  • skating rinks
  • indoor visitor attractions
  • a business of providing facilities for persons to consume intoxicating liquor in or on a conveyance
  • libraries (except to meet orders or requests received through a website or other on-line communication, or by telephone including by text message)

If any of the businesses listed above is part of a larger business, the larger business may continue to operate if it closes those parts of its business that are required to close.

Hospitality venues can only remain open for takeaway and delivery of food and non-alcoholic drinks. Businesses providing takeaway services must close at 11pm.

Businesses that may operate

The following businesses can operate in line with appropriate precautions and/or specific regulations unless local restrictions are in effect.

With a small number of exceptions (see list above), retail businesses may open - ie businesses offering goods for sale or hire in a shop - including, but not limited to:

  • food and drink
  • clothing
  • footwear
  • accessories
  • books and stationery
  • flowers and plants
  • music recordings and instruments
  • textiles
  • toys and games
  • sports goods
  • jewellery
  • cosmetics
  • toiletries
  • antiques and related items 

In addition to the retail businesses listed above, the following businesses may open:

  • pharmacies (including non-dispensing pharmacies) and chemists
  • petrol stations
  • motor vehicle repair and MOT services
  • taxi or vehicle hire businesses
  • banks, building societies, credit unions, short term loan providers and cash points savings clubs and undertakings which by way of business operate currency exchange offices, transmit money (or any representation of money) by any means or cash cheques which are made payable to customers
  • post offices
  • funeral directors
  • laundrettes and dry cleaners
  • dental services, opticians, audiology services, chiropody, chiropractors, osteopaths and other medical or health services, including services relating to mental health
  • veterinary surgeons and pet shops
  • outdoor markets and auction houses
  • repairers of goods, including electrical and electronic items, shoes, clothing, furniture, tools, jewellery and related items
  • car parks
  • public toilets
  • self-catering accommodation (including, holiday apartments, homes, cottages, bungalows) however only members of one household or bubble are permitted to stay together 
  • static caravan parks (however campsites and services for touring caravans must close)
  • a hotel or guest house may open in relation to residents who are:
    • already resident on the date this schedule comes into operation
    • resident for work-related purposes
    • vulnerable people
    • unable to return to their private dwelling due to an emergency
  • in hotels, food and non-alcoholic drinks can be provided to residents staying for permitted purposes, but bars are required to close
  • businesses that provide hot or cold food for consumption off their premises (businesses providing takeaway services must close at 11pm)
  • animal care or welfare services, including boarding, stabling, grooming, exercising, sitting or training animals
  • retailers or wholesalers of motor vehicles, including cars, light goods vehicles, motorcycles or vans; medium, large or articulated goods vehicles, including trailers; caravans or motorhomes; agricultural vehicles and equipment; mining, construction or civil engineering vehicles; buses or coaches
  • betting shops
  • indoor fitness studios and gyms may remain open for individual training only
  • outdoor leisure playgrounds, courts and gyms
  • indoor sport and leisure facilities, including leisure centres, may remain open for individual training only
  • community centres and halls
  • swimming pools in leisure centres, hotels and private facilities (individual swimming is permitted, swimming in a club setting is not allowed)
  • cookery schools can remain open (subject to risk-assessments and with appropriate safety measures in place)
  • soft play areas (subject to risk-assessments and with appropriate safety measures in place)
  • off licences (however alcohol is not permitted to be sold after 8pm).


Indoor sport and outdoor organised contact sport involving household mixing is not permitted, other than at elite level. Elite training and competition can continue, both indoors and outdoors.

Fitness and exercise classes are not permitted.

While individual swimming is permitted, swimming in a club setting is not allowed.

Personal one-to-one training is allowed, subject to no contact.

Outdoor non-contact sport is permitted, however, a limit of 15 applies. Appropriate mitigations must be in place.

Work and services carried out in private homes

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.

Businesses/ individuals providing close contact services in a private dwelling are not permitted to operate.

Outdoor performances and screenings

You may provide for drive-in concerts, theatre performances cinema screenings. Everyone attending for this purpose must remain inside the vehicle in which they arrived at the premises for the duration of the concert, performance or screening.

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