Coronavirus: The Executive's pathway out of restrictions

News article

Details of the plans to move Northern Ireland out of coronavirus restrictions in a gradual way based on available evidence and the impact on health, society and the economy

The Northern Ireland Executive has published a planned pathway out of the current COVID-19 restrictions and set out the approach that will be taken over the coming months. The gradual approach to lifting restrictions will be informed by a range of evidence and data.

The Executive’s strategic priorities are:

  • the health and wellbeing of citizens
  • societal and community wellbeing
  • economic wellbeing and revitalising the economy

Decisions will be guided by four overarching principles:

  • evidence-based: proposals for change or for keeping in place a restriction or requirement should be informed by the best available evidence and analysis
  • necessary: a specific restriction or requirement should be kept only as long as it is considered necessary to provide the right public health response to the incidence or spread of COVID-19
  • proportionate: the detrimental impacts on health, education, society and the economy that can reasonably be attributed to the restriction or requirement should be tolerated only as long as the risks associated with withdrawing or modifying it are assessed to be more severe
  • sustainable: communities and the economy need to be built back up in a way that builds resilience, is long-term focused, and viable

In applying these principles, the Executive will consider the impact of decisions across a range of factors, including:

  • health: rate of virus transmission and incidence; healthcare capacity (COVID-19 and non-COVID); population immunity and vaccination
  • community: mental health and physical wellbeing; education of children and young people; impacts upon vulnerable people
  • economy: impact on businesses/ sectors; impact on employees; availability of economic support packages

A staged approach to relaxing restrictions

The pathway outlines the phases to reduce and remove the restrictions that are currently in place.

Nine pathways have been developed, each of which has five phases:

  • home and community
  • sports and leisure activities
  • work
  • education and young people
  • worship and ceremonies
  • retail
  • culture, heritage and entertainment
  • travel and tourism
  • hospitality

Progress through the phases will be based on a range of evidence and will seek to balance the benefits with the potential impact on the transmission of the virus.

This means the nine pathways may be in different phases at any given time.

It will require a minimum of three weeks to assess the impact of each significant relaxation before further decisions are made.

This means there will be a four-week cycle, with the dates for Comprehensive Formal Reviews by the Executive being:

  • 16 March 2021
  • 15 April 2021
  • 13 May 2021
  • 10 June 2021

The Executive will continually monitor and assess the impact of relaxations and, after taking each decision, will pause and reflect on the health, societal and economic impacts before reviewing and moving to the next decision.

Find out more information, including details on the nine pathways, on the Northern Ireland Executive website.


First published: 2 March 2021