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Statement on Executive decisions – Covid relaxations in Northern Ireland, October 2021 Published Date: 08/10/2021

The Executive has agreed a number of gradual and proportionate relaxations to the current Coronavirus restrictions, informed by medical and scientific advice. The relaxations will take effect on 14th and 31st October 2021.

From Thursday, 14th October, the Executive has agreed that:

  • Further relaxations around the numbers permitted in private dwellings and a move away from the maximum number of people allowed to gather from 15 from four households to an overall cap of 30.
  • The requirement for audience members to be seated when watching performances in indoor venues will be removed.

The regulations in relation to large house parties and raves will remain in place and are still not permitted.

The Executive has also agreed a further package of relaxations from October 31. Over the next few weeks, further work will be carried out with the sectors to prepare for appropriate mitigations to be put in place in advance of the regulations being lifted.

From Sunday, 31st October:

The Executive has agreed following relaxations from 31st October, with mitigations in place:

  • Allow people to move around hospitality premises and indoor venues, including being able to stand to have a drink and eat food.
  • The restriction on indoor dancing will be lifted.
  • The need to maintain social distancing in hospitality settings, such as pubs and restaurants will move to guidance. Whilst the legal requirement for social distancing will now be removed, people are asked to keep close face-to-face contact to a minimum at all times.
  • Nightclubs will be permitted to reopen.


The relaxations come with strong recommendations that venues and event organisers require individuals to demonstrate one of the following:

  • Proof of having been fully vaccinated for more than two weeks;
  • Proof of a negative PCR test or rapid lateral flow test taken within 48 hours of entry to a venue (a lateral flow test taken at home will need to be reported into the public reporting system(external link opens in a new window / tab)); or
  • Evidence of a positive PCR test result for COVID-19 within the previous 180 days and following completion of the self-isolation period.

Autumn Winter Covid contingency planning

The Executive also considered its Autumn Winter Covid Contingency Planning and what options it has at its disposal in the event of rising cases numbers or unsustainable pressures on our hospitals.   

Options include:

  • Having available the ability to deliver COVID-status certification in certain settings if it was considered desirable and appropriate;
  • The potential to tighten arrangements for self-isolation or minimum social distancing in higher risk settings; and
  • Fresh, cohesive messaging about safe behaviours focusing on maximizing vaccine uptake, the need for effective ventilation and the importance of wearing a face covering, particularly in crowded and enclosed settings.

These options will build on the measures retained by the Executive to help reduce the spread of the virus, those being flexible and hybrid working, the requirement for businesses to carry out risk assessments and record visitor and attendee information, and the requirement to wear face covering in certain settings, such as in shops, shopping centres and public transport.