News article

Coronavirus: Five-stage recovery plan published by Executive

12 May 2020


Document sets out the approach the Northern Ireland Executive will take when deciding how to ease restrictions in the future

A phased five-stage plan for slowly moving out of lockdown has been published by the NI Executive.

In making decisions about easing restrictions in the future, the Executive will consider three key criteria:

  • the most up-to-date scientific evidence
  • the ability of the health service to cope
  • the wider impacts on our health, society and the economy

The steps are indicative and the process will need to be flexible so that it can adapt to new evidence and developments and the Executive can review and refine the approach to decision-making. 

The 'Pathway to Recovery' plan includes general indicators used to inform risk evaluation easing of restrictions on business activities at each stage:

Step one

  • Outdoor activities (work and leisure) during which social distancing can be maintained for individuals who do not share a household contact and where there is no shared contact with hard surfaces.
  • Encouragement to those unable to work from home to return to the workplace on a phased basis subject to legal requirements and best practice arrangements being in place.
  • Large outdoor-based retail can open (eg garden centres - though associated cafes and restaurants only able to offer takeaway/collection).
  • Outdoor spaces and public sports amenities to open.
  • Drive-through cinemas can open.

Step two

  • Indoor activities involving limited contacts of less than 10 minutes and interactions of only two to four people that maintain social distancing and prevent congregating in places for an extended period.
  • Outdoor activities involving small groups of less than 10 people during which it may be difficult to maintain social distancing but where contacts are brief (less than 10 minutes).
  • Non-food retail can open where numbers limited and social distancing and other mitigating measures in place as per risk assessment.
  • In addition, subject to risk assessment and adhering to maximum capacities, provision expanded to cover a wider definition of key workers as workplace activity gradually increases.
  • Selected libraries open, restricted services.
  • Open-air museums re-open.

Step three

  • Indoor activities involving a larger number of individuals where social distancing can be maintained for individuals who do not share a household connection.
  • Outdoor activities involving larger groups of less than 30 people during which it may be difficult to maintain social distancing but where contacts are brief (less than 10 minutes).
  • Phased return to the office and onsite working subject to risk assessment.
  • Work that can be done from home should be done from home.
  • Museums and galleries open.
  • Libraries open.
  • Concert and theatre rehearsals resume.

Step four

  • Indoor activities involving larger numbers of individuals where social distancing cannot be consistently maintained but contacts are limited and last less than 10 minutes or longer if effective mitigation is possible.
  • Outdoor gatherings involving larger numbers of individuals where social distancing cannot be easily maintained and multiple contacts of less than 10 minutes are likely.
  • Other ‘contact’ retail (hairdressers, fitness studios, tattoo/piercing) can open subject to mitigations following risk assessment.
  • Leisure centres and other indoor leisure facilities open.
  • Outdoor concerts on a restricted basis.

Step five

  • Indoor gatherings of large numbers of people where social distancing cannot be easily maintained and multiple contacts of more than 10 minutes are likely.
  • All able to return to work subject to mitigations.  Remote working still strongly encouraged and maintained where possible.
  • Hospitality retail (restaurants, cafes, pubs) can open subject to risk assessment, on a limited basis to start with.
  • Spectators to attend live events on a restricted basis.
  • Nightclubs, concerts open on a limited basis.

The steps may apply to different sectors at different times and are intended to be illustrative, not comprehensive.

Read details on the Coronavirus - NI Executive recovery plan.

There is an onus on businesses to show how they can accommodate the current social distancing and other requirements if they are seeking agreement to recommence their activities.

For businesses, this means meeting their legal duty and following best practice for their workforce by ensuring social distancing is observed wherever possible and by meeting all of the other relevant guidance. This will require many businesses and their employees to find new working practices.


First published 12 May 2020