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.

You should continue to work from home where you can.

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.

Live music is permitted in licensed and unlicensed premises. Music must be at ambient levels that permit normal conversation and with suitable mitigations in place.

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.

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 (including theatres, concert halls and other seated indoor venues) 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

Indoor attractions and venues must take reasonable measures to ensure that social distancing measures are maintained at all times to limit the risk of transmission of the coronavirus.

Live music events (indoor and outdoor), without restriction to volume levels, must be effectively controlled and managed. Live music events held within larger premises (such as hotel function rooms) are not permitted.

Entry to concerts, theatres and other types of 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). Social distancing of one metre is required for indoor venues and dancing is not permitted for audience members.

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 operate without appointments and have overlapping appointments.

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.

Retail

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

Shops must take all reasonable measures to manage risk, including making sure measures are in place to maintain social distancing.

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

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.

To determine the maximum number of people permitted to attend or participate in an outdoor sporting activity/ event, the organiser or operator must carry out a risk assessment.

Outdoor sporting activities/ events of 30 people or fewer do not need a risk assessment.

Indoor sport
All indoor sport, whether organised formally by your local sports club or informally by a group of friends, is permitted (subject to risk assessment and appropriate mitigations).

A risk assessment, as set out in the regulations, must be completed where there will be over 15 people taking part.

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, congregation of people on the side-lines 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.

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