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

While the message to work from home where possible and appropriate remains, the Executive would encourage employers to plan for a return to the workplace with consideration of mitigations to control the spread of the virus and engagement with employees and their representatives on the beneficial use of flexible working where appropriate.

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 in members’ clubs) are permitted to open and live music is permitted.

Food and drink must only be consumed while seated at tables indoors.

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, play darts, pool or gaming machines), unless exempt.

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.

From 31 October 2021 - the following relaxations will be permitted, with mitigations in place:

  • People can 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.

Find out more about forthcoming relaxations for hospitality and indoor venues.

Post-ceremony celebrations for marriages and civil partnerships
Live music is permitted in licensed and unlicensed premises and dancing at wedding and civil partnership post-ceremony celebrations is permitted.

A person responsible for a hospitality business must take reasonable measures to make sure that social distancing measures are maintained at all times to limit the risk of transmission of the coronavirus.

Face coverings must be worn if you leave your table (to access toilet facilities/in public areas), unless exempt.

Accommodation

All types of tourism accommodation can open, including shared facilities on caravan sites and in hostels.

Up to 15 people from no more than four households can stay together overnight. Children aged 12 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.

Live music events (indoor and outdoor), without restriction to volume levels, must be effectively controlled and managed. 

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.

Find out more about the current COVID-19 regulations and guidance, and what they mean for:

As of 14 October 2021 the requirement for audience members to be seated when watching performances in indoor venues has been removed.

Find out more about relaxations for hospitality and indoor venues.

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 must collect customer details to help with the Test, Trace, Protect contact tracing programme.

Driving instruction, theory tests and driving tests are permitted.

Retail

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

Face coverings must be worn in retail premises, including indoor areas of a shopping centre, unless exempt.

Find out more about the current COVID-19 regulations and guidance, and what they mean for retail and enclosed shopping centres.

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.

Sports

Outdoor sport
All outdoor sport, whether organised formally by a 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 a 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, a congregation of people on the sidelines 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.

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, aeroplanes, 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