COVID-19 restrictions will be eased in Northern Ireland from tomorrow, the first minister and deputy first minister have announced.
From midday on Friday, people will no longer be restricted to table service and sitting in groups of six at restaurants, pubs and bars.
The current three-household limit on gatherings inside private homes will also be scrapped, but no more than 30 people will be allowed to stay overnight.
Northern Ireland’s Department of Health has also agreed to change its self-isolation period to five days – providing people have negative lateral flow test results on days five and six – in line with the rest of the UK from Friday.
The guidance on working from home will be relaxed to working remotely “where you can”, while people will no longer be required to prove they are exempt from wearing a face mask in public spaces.
From 26 January, nightclubs will be able to reopen and vaccine passports will no longer be required to attend venues like pubs, restaurants and cinemas.
They will remain a requirement for nightclubs and indoor events that are unseated or partially seated with 500 or more people.
Social distancing requirements in offices and other workplaces will also be lifted next Wednesday.
Further changes could happen next month
Announcing the changes on Thursday, the executive said the new measures would be reviewed again on 10 February.
Further changes could include removing the requirements on face coverings in public spaces, guidance on lateral flow testing before socialising and the rules around test and trace.
Nightclubs and indoor events have been banned in Northern Ireland since 26 December in a bid to curb COVID cases as the Omicron variant spread through the UK.
Dancing has also been banned in hospitality venues.
‘Pandemic not over – but Omicron has peaked’
Speaking ahead of the announcement, Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said that while the pandemic was not over, the new variant has peaked in Northern Ireland.
She said: “The pandemic is far from over but we are cautiously optimistic.
“We believe we are through the peak and we believe we have some space now to be able to reverse the protections that we put in place over the course of the last number of weeks.
“It is a positive picture but I would ask people not to be complacent yet, we still have a journey to travel.”