People living alone in NI will be able to stay at one other household as part of further easing of coronavirus restrictions.
First Minister Arlene Foster announced that, from Saturday, single adults can spend the night at another house in a “support bubble”.
The executive agreed to the move to “minimise the impact of loneliness and isolation”.
The relaxation does not apply to those who are shielding.
The executive met on Thursday and agreed to lift a number of lockdown measures, because the R-number – which measures the rate of infection – is currently estimated as being between 0.5 and 0.9.
Mrs Foster said ministers could not yet commit to allowing people who do not live alone to visit family and friends indoors, but said the executive will revisit that on Monday to see if it can “take another step forward”.
“We’re conscious people want more and if the science allows it on Monday, we will revisit it,” said Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill.
‘Desire to return to normal’
The measures, announced at the Stormont daily press briefing, also include:
- Groups of up to 10 people who do not live together can meet outdoors, maintaining social distancing, from Friday
- People can move house from Monday
- Elite athletes can begin to train using outdoor facilities from Monday
- All non-essential retail, including shopping centres, can open from Friday
- Church halls and community centres can open to facilitate childcare for people from Friday
Ministers recognised there was a “strong desire to return to normal life”, said Mrs Foster.
Ms O’Neill said work was under way to see if the executive could, from next week, begin to provide indicative dates for other sectors to reopen.
Northern Ireland’s five-stage recovery blueprint did not include a timetable for reopening, with ministers saying they would not be calendar-led.
However, the executive now wants to be able to “signpost” to people that they should get ready, added Mrs Foster.