Executive confirms relaxations to restrictions

Date published: 20 May 2021

Significant relaxations to the Covid-19 restrictions will come into effect from Monday 24 May, the Executive has confirmed today.

Covid-19 news update

Ministers said the easements will be immensely beneficial to families, communities and the economy, and urged everyone to stay safe as they enjoy more freedoms.

Covid-19 household mixing graphic - 24 May
Covid-19 household mixing graphic - 24 May

First Minister Arlene Foster said:

“I’m pleased that we are in a position to confirm the opening of more parts of our society from Monday. After an anxious wait for many, this is great news for our people and our economy. I want to thank the public for their patience and perseverance and I commend all those sectors who have worked diligently to prepare for restart.

“There is no doubt that the impacts of the pandemic over the last year will continue to be felt deeply. But in moving forward, there is hope. Now is a time to look ahead and to enjoy these hard won freedoms safely. We must continue to do all we can as a community to keep ourselves and each other safe and I appeal to everyone to be cautious to help ensure we can keep heading in the right direction.” 

Covid-19 hospitality graphic - 24 May
Covid-19 hospitality graphic - 24 May

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said:

“This is a day of positive progress on our road to recovery as we have been able to confirm significant relaxations to the restrictions from Monday 24 May.

“As we begin to rebuild, we are very much focused on personal, societal and economic wellbeing. This latest set of easements will have wide-reaching benefits for individuals, families, businesses and workers. And after what has been an incredibly tough time for everyone, we want people to take the good of being able to do the things they have missed; whether that’s a meal out with friends, a visit to your parents’ house, a family day trip, or a dance class.

“As we look forward to better times, it is crucial that everyone continues taking steps to stop the virus from spreading. The last year has taught us that we can’t take anything for granted, so we are urging everyone to stay safe, be careful and help protect this good progress.” 

Covid-19 weddings graphic - 24 May
Covid-19 weddings graphic - 24 May

The relaxations agreed by the Executive, which will come into effect on 24 May, are:

Home and community

  • Allow indoor visits in domestic settings
    • Up to 6 people from no more than 2 households
    • Does not include children under 12
    • Can be more if household has more than 6, but not more than 10
    • Overnight stays permitted
  • Removal of stay local message

Education and young people

  • Schools can resume extra-curricular activities
  • Indoor extra-curricular sports allowed
  • Outdoor inter-schools sports allowed
  • Day educational visits allowed

Culture, heritage and entertainment

  • Indoor visitor attractions can reopen
    • Includes amusement arcades, bingo halls, museums, galleries and cinemas
    • Social distancing where possible
    • Risk assessment to maximum capacity
    • All contact details must be taken and retained
  • Libraries can reopen
    • Provide limited in-library services in line with permitted gathering numbers

Sports and leisure activities

  • Indoor group exercise and training can resume
    • Includes soft play areas, leisure centres, gyms, swimming pools, equestrian centres, venues relating to motor sport and activity centres.
    • Numbers limited to suit the venue
    • Social distancing where possible
    • Risk assessment to maximum capacity
    • All contact details must be taken and retained
  • Full return to outdoor sport. Removal of:
    • The limit of 15;
    • The limit on squad training;
    • The requirement for outdoor sport being permitted only for those affiliated to a Governing body or an organisation that regulates a sport or sporting activity; and
    • The cap of 100 on competitive sporting events, and replace with an overall limit of 500 on all outdoor sporting events
  • Indoor club training in squads allowed
    • No limits on numbers

Travel and tourism

  • Reopen the remainder of travel and tourism
    • All contact details must be taken and retained
    • Rooms/accommodation area booking in line with the permission re indoor domestic settings/bubbles
    • Shared facilities will reopen
    • Meeting rooms will be reopened - capacity will be to risk assessment maximum
  • Post wedding and civil partnership receptions permitted
    • Risk assessment for capacity
    • No restriction on top table
    • Other tables maximum of ten (no household restriction)
    • Children under 12 excluded from table numbers
    • One dance permitted for the couple
    • Music same as for licenced venues


  • Reopen unlicensed and licensed premises indoors with mitigations
  • 6 together from unlimited households (indoor and outdoor)
  • Children under 12 are not counted in the 6
  • More will be permitted per table, if all are from one household, to a maximum of 10
  • Table service only
  • All contact details must be recorded and retained.
  • Social distancing required – minimum of 1m.
  • Must stay at table – no gaming machines, pool tables, etc.;
  • Face coverings must be worn once no longer seated for any reason, for example, to go to the toilet
  • No meal requirement
  • No dancing
  • No live music
  • Music must be at ambient level to permit normal conversation
  • Risk assessment as per current regulations for outdoors

Other hospitality events

  • For example gala dinners, functions, ticketed or not
  • Capacity to risk assessment maximum
  • Subject to other indoor hospitality requirements e.g. table seating, contact details, music etc.
  • Conference facilities in tourism sector – the closure will be removed from the Regulations to allow use for other purposes to risk assessment capacity.

Indoor and outdoor gatherings

  • Increase numbers permitted for indoor gatherings (non domestic)
    • Subject to risk assessment per venue
    • Allows resumption of community events
    • Risk assessment required if over 15 people
  • Increase numbers for outdoor gatherings
    • Increase to 500, or capped at risk assessment level if lower
    • Allows up to 500 spectators at any outdoors event (sport/concerts etc)
    • Risk assessment required if over 30 people
    • Lateral flow tests advised for any planned larger events

Share this page

Back to top