All legal Covid-19 restrictions in Northern Ireland will be replaced by guidance from tomorrow (TUE), Health Minister Robin Swann said today.
Among the Covid-19 restrictions being lifted from the law are the requirement to wear a face mask in public places and use Covid certificates in nightclubs, although their use in all hospitality and entertainment sectors will continue to be encouraged.
Mr Swann also reiterated his position that there are currently no plans to change the current testing, contact tracing and isolation arrangements in Northern Ireland.
The decision to repeal the Covid-19 laws follows a review of the attorney general’s legal advice and consultations with executive ministers and takes the response to the pandemic in Northern Ireland to a new stage.
However, in announcing a series of easing, the UUP minister also underlined the continued need for caution and vigilance as another 2,465 cases and two virus-related deaths have been reported.
Mr Swann, who revealed over the weekend that he tested positive for Covid, said: “With the threat reduction from the Omicron option, we can move from an emergency and legal framework to a new approach where making safer choices is built into our lives. . Everyday life.
“This means that we all continue to do our best to reduce the risk of infection and transmission.
“It means taking care of each other while following public health guidelines. One must always remember that taking an unreasonable risk with Covid can affect people who are especially vulnerable to the virus.
“So please take your time and don’t start acting like the pandemic is over. It’s not relevant.
“Despite the fact that omicron is less dangerous than previous strains of the virus, the transmission of the virus in the population remains very high, and the burden on hospitals is significant.
“The most vulnerable as a result of the underlying disease are still susceptible to severe illness and it is important that we all do our best to protect them.”
Mr Swann warned that the coronavirus “is likely to stay with us in one form or another for some time,” but he said the emergency restrictions could not remain in place indefinitely.
He continued, “Most of what we are currently doing to protect ourselves is already governed by guidance rather than rules.
“This includes self-isolating when infected and getting tested for lateral flow before meeting other people.
“The guidance will continue to highlight all the steps we must continue to take to protect each other.
“Of course, I will keep the situation with the regulations in constant and detailed control. We cannot exclude the emergence of a new option in the future, requiring new interventions. I really hope this doesn’t happen.”
Mr. Swann made the announcement after receiving the latest public health assessment from the Chief Medical Officer and Chief Scientific Adviser.
“It is expected from public health assessments that there is not expected to be a significant increase in ICU workload,” he continued.
“While a lot of people are very welcoming to my decision on the rules, I know there will be concerns. Community transmission rates are still very high and our hospitals are still under severe stress.
“Continued efforts to comply with public health guidelines will help reduce infections and support our public health service.”
As the hospitality sector will continue to be encouraged to use Covid certificates, Mr Swann said the importance of wearing face masks in medical and social settings, public transport and indoors “will continue to be emphasized.”
The vaccine certification will continue to be available to the public, including those who need it to travel abroad to meet the entry requirements of the countries they visit.