Northern Ireland has begun taking its first steps out of lockdown, after restrictions were imposed nearly three months ago.
The rules came into force on 26 December, in a bid to suppress the spread of Covid-19.
But ministers have agreed that some relaxations of the rules can now be permitted. BBC News NI explains what’s changing.
When will all pupils return to school?
Children in nursery, pre-school and primary one to primary three have already returned.
From Monday 22 March, the remaining pupils in primary schools can resume face-to-face learning (P4-P7), with post-primary students in Years 12-14 returning on that date too.
The executive has agreed that all other post-primary students (years 8-11) should return on 12 April, after the Easter holidays.
But this will be kept under review, ministers have said, and there will be mitigations in place with testing programmes rolling out for some students and staff.
The changes mean education will move to step three in the pathway-to-recovery document.
What does this mean for exams?
All GCSE, AS and A-level examinations in Northern Ireland scheduled for January, February, May and June will not go ahead this year.
All of this year’s scheduled BTec and other vocational exams in Northern Ireland have been cancelled.
Post-primary school transfer tests have also been halted with grammar schools deciding on their own selection criteria.
What about meeting up?
Gatherings of people outdoors in public parks and spaces are limited to 10 people from two households, which includes children under 12 – although exemptions apply such as support bubbles.
From 1 April, people can take exercise with another household, limited to 10 people from two households.
That date will also mean six people from two households will be allowed to meet in a private garden.
From 12 April, this will rise to allow 10 people from two households to meet in a private garden.
There will be exemptions such as for using the toilet, or entering a garden where there is no alternative route.
Can I play sports again?
The changes to rules on outdoor gatherings mean some outdoor sporting activities can begin again.
It will mean people from two households will be allowed to take part in golf or walk in groups, for example.
However, clubhouses and sports facilities such as changing rooms, showers, kitchens and meeting rooms will need to remain closed.
Gyms are not allowed to reopen at this time.
From 12 April, and subject to agreement after Easter weekend, sports training will be allowed to resume with affiliated sports clubs, limited to 15 people.
The executive has also agreed to increase the provision for elite sports from March 25 March to allow a number of new competitions to begin.
First Minister Arlene Foster said the “minor adjustment” to the restrictions would allow two World Cup qualification matches scheduled for 25 and 31 March to take place as well as a friendly match between NI and the USA on 28 March.
No spectators will be permitted at any sporting event.
What about travel?
From 12 April, subject to a review after Easter, the executive will relax the stay-at-home message that came into force at the start of the lockdown.
However, there will continue to be a “stay local” message.
Other measures on travel remain in place.
The executive also has guidance which states that anyone travelling into Northern Ireland who plans to stay for at least 24 hours should self-isolate for 10 days.
But people who routinely cross the border for essential purposes are not subject to restrictions.
It has also defined further what it constitutes as “essential travel”, including for work and health reasons.
The Republic of Ireland has imposed a temporary travel ban on Great Britain, but will not introduce controls on the border with Northern Ireland.
International travellers arriving in Northern Ireland must also produce evidence of a negative Covid-19 test.
This rule is also in place in the Republic of Ireland, and extends to passengers from Great Britain.
What about going to work?
The executive says it is still urging people to “work from home and stay at home”, and only go to their workplace if they cannot work from home.
How are shops affected?
Non-essential retail has not been allowed to open since 26 December.
Click-and-collect is permitted for some of those businesses including clothing and footwear, baby equipment and electrical goods shops.
From 1 April, garden centres and plant nurseries will be allowed to restart click-and-collect, and from 12 April, the executive says this will be relaxed further to include all remaining non-essential retail.
Retail and services permitted to remain open during the lockdown include:
- Food retailers, supermarkets, convenience stores, corner shops, newsagents
- Off licences and breweries
- Pharmacies (including non-dispensing pharmacies)
- Building supplies businesses and hardware stores
- Petrol stations
- Pet shops, agricultural supplies shops, livestock markets, veterinary surgeons
- Motor vehicle repair, MOT services, bicycle shops, taxi or vehicle hire businesses
- Banks, building societies, credit unions, short-term loan providers and cash points, savings clubs and undertakings which by way of business operate currency exchange offices, transmit money (or any representation of money) by any means, or cash cheques which are made payable to customers, and
- Post offices
- Laundrettes and dry cleaners
- Storage and distribution facilities for delivery and drop off
Funeral homes, dentists, opticians, audiology services, chiropody, chiropractors, osteopaths can remain open, as will services relating to mental health.
Professional services including solicitors can continue to operate as normal, as can those in the manufacturing and construction industry.
Close-contact services such as hair and beauty salons are not allowed to operate, however, close contact for film and TV production can continue.
Other close contact services supporting medical, health or social care – including sports massage therapy – can also stay open.
Hospitality is only allowed to offer takeaway and delivery services, while food and drink in motorway services, airports and harbour terminals remain open. The use of outdoor seating is not permitted either on the premises or adjacent to them.
Off-licences (including from bars) are permitted from 08:00 on Monday to Saturday, and from 10:00 on Sunday, until 20:00 on any day.
Can people come into my house?
Only in the most limited of circumstances, which include:
- Caring responsibilities including childcare
- Essential maintenance
- Supported living arrangements
- Visits required for legal or medical purposes
- Wedding ceremonies where one partner is terminally ill
The executive says support bubbles already formed by some households will also continue to apply.
These were announced several months ago, with the aim of helping people who have been cut off from friends and family.
Two households can form a support bubble but they are limited to a maximum of 10 people, including children, at any one time.
Can I stay in a hotel?
Hotels were allowed to remain open until 28 December to “accommodate” guests over the Christmas season.
Now they are only allowed to operate in limited circumstances, such as to offer rooms to essential workers and “staff on the front line battling Covid”.
It also applies to people who are unable to return to their main address, those in emergency situations and vulnerable people.
What about weddings and funerals?
They can continue.
But no more than 25 people are allowed to attend the services and no wedding receptions are allowed.
No pre or post-funeral gatherings are permitted either and wakes cannot take place.
Can I still go to church?
Yes but only for private prayer.
Northern Ireland’s main church denominations have temporarily ceased public worship services.
Weddings and funerals can continue, as will some baptisms, drive-in services and private prayer.
The executive has said there is a mandatory requirement to wear face coverings when inside, and while entering and exiting places of worship.
Can I go to the cinema?
Leisure and entertainment businesses remain closed.
- Museums and galleries
- Bingo halls
- Funfairs (whether outdoors or indoors) and inflatable parks
- Indoor amusement arcades
- Skating rinks
- Indoor visitor attractions
- Outdoor visitor attractions
Can I take driving lessons?
They fall under close-contact services and cannot operate.
Health Minister Robin Swann said MoT centres would be permitted to remain open, but clarification will be issued on where vehicles can be washed ahead of an MoT, as car washes are required to close.
What about visits to hospitals or care homes?
They are only permitted in the most limited of circumstances.
On 15 January, hospitals, hospices and care homes across Northern Ireland suspended most visiting in an effort to curb the spread of Covid-19.
There is no face-to-face visiting, however there are some exceptions including end of life visits.
The Department of Health says it will keep the measure under constant review.
Do I have to shield again?
The executive says it is not formally reintroducing guidance to shield, after it was paused in July.
It has, however, advised people who are classed as clinically extremely vulnerable to no longer attend work, if they cannot work from home.
Chief Medical Officer Dr Michael McBride said it was “not a return to shielding as we knew it”, and encouraged vulnerable people to continue to go outside for exercise – but maintain social distancing.
Where do I have to wear a face covering now?
They have been mandatory on public transport since July and in shops since August, with a limited number of exemptions.
Earlier in November, the executive announced it was extending compulsory wearing of face coverings to the following settings:
- Taxis and private buses
- For staff in retail shops
- In public areas of civil services offices such as jobs and benefits offices
- When boarding a plane
- In banks, building societies, credit unions and post offices
- For driving instructors and their students
How are all these rules being enforced?
Some of the measures are only guidance and there is no penalty for breaking guidance, but people in Northern Ireland caught breaching coronavirus regulations can face a minimum fine of £200.
There are also three other offences:
- Not closing a business as required
- Breaching closing times
- Not implementing social distancing
Breaches of those laws can incur a fixed penalty notice of £1,000 or up to £10,000 on conviction.
The executive has regular review dates – 15 April, 13 May, 10 June – but can take decisions on restrictions more quickly in line with changing public health advice.