The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2020

Jurisdiction: Northern Ireland

Commencement: 28th March 2020


The Regulations are designed to protect public health by preventing the spread of COVID19 (i.e. Coronavirus). They apply to many types of business and other organisations, which are required to close or restrict their activities. They also apply to individuals, requiring people not to leave their homes except for certain specified reasons. The Regulations apply in Northern Ireland only (similar Regulations have been passed in England, Scotland and Wales).

Businesses which are required to close

The Regulations impose requirements on various types of businesses and organisations which are required to close in order to restrict the spread of Coronavirus. The types of business or organisation affected can be divided into the following categories:

  • Businesses which sell food and drink for consumption on the premises.
  • Certain listed types of businesses in which people commonly congregate (theatres, cinemas, concert halls, sports centres, etc.).
  • Other businesses which supply goods for sale or hire.
  • Holiday accommodation.
  • Places of worship.
  • Community centres.
  • Crematoria and places of burial.

The Regulations also list certain key businesses which are excepted from the restrictions.


Emergency period

The restrictions set out in these Regulations only apply during the ‘emergency period’. The emergency period starts on 28th March 2020. The emergency period ends in relation to any particular restriction or when the Department of Health issues a direction ending it.

The Department of Health issues must review the need for the restrictions at least every 21 days, commencing 18th April 2020.

The Department of Health must issue a direction ending any restrictions or requirements as soon as they are no longer necessary to protect public health from the spread of Coronavirus.

In any event, the Regulations expire after 6 months. 

Business which sell food and drink for consumption on the premises

The Regulations require the following types of business to close:

  • Restaurants, including in hotels or members clubs.
  • Cafes, (including workplace canteens but see below).
  • Bars, including in hotels or members’ clubs.
  • Public houses.

Any person carrying on a relevant business listed above must:

  • Stop selling food or drink for consumption on the premises (n.b. this also applies where a business sells food or drink for consumption in an area adjacent to the premises, e.g. a food court, even though the area set aside for eating and drinking may not have been provided directly by the business).
  • Close that part of the premises on which food and drink are sold for consumption on the premises (this may apply to the whole of the premises).


Workplace canteens can remain open where there is no practical alternative for staff to obtain food.

The Regulations do not apply to cafes or canteens in hospitals, care homes, schools, prisons, or MoD establishments for use for naval, military or air force purposes. They also do not apply to services providing food or drink to the homeless.

The provision of room service in a hotel is excluded (i.e. hotels may continue to provide room service).

A business which sells hot or cold food for consumption off the premises is not required to close.

Businesses in which people congregate which must close 

The Regulations require the following types of businesses to close:

  • Cinemas
  • Theatres
  • Nightclubs
  • Bingo halls
  • Concert halls
  • Museums and galleries
  • Casinos
  • Betting shops
  • Spas
  • Nail, beauty, hair salons and barbers
  • Massage parlours
  • Tattoo and piercing parlours
  • Skating rinks
  • Indoor fitness studios, gyms, swimming pools, bowling alleys, amusement arcades, or soft play areas or other indoor leisure centres
  • Funfairs (whether outdoors or indoors)
  • Playgrounds, sports courts and outdoor gyms
  • Outdoor markets (except for stalls selling food)
  • Car showrooms
  • Auction Houses


Though otherwise required to close, cinemas, theatres, bingo halls, concert halls, museums, and galleries can be used to broadcast (by internet, television or radio) to people outside the premises.

Any suitable premises may still be used to host blood donation services.

Other businesses which provide goods for sale or hire

The Regulations require all other businesses which supply goods for sale or hire to close. Libraries are included in this category (i.e. they must close).

The person carrying on any relevant business must close the premises and must not allow anybody onto the premises, except as set out below.

Although required to close, businesses supplying goods for sale or hire are permitted to continue to make deliveries or provide services for orders received by website, text, phone or post. The business may keep premises open and permit entry to people only to the extent required to make the deliveries or other services permitted here.

Holiday accommodation

The person responsible for a business providing holiday accommodation must close the business, except where:

  • the person in the accommodation is unable to return home, or  uses it as their main home, or needs it while moving house or to attend a funeral;
  • the accommodation is provided to house the homeless;
  • the accommodation is used to serve blood donation sessions; or
  • the accommodation is used for any purpose requested by any Northern Ireland department, the Regional Agency, a health and social care trust, or a district council.
  • Holiday accommodation includes a hotel, hostel, bed and breakfast accommodation, holiday apartment, home, cottage or bungalow, campsite, caravan park or boarding house.

Places of worship

These must be closed except as follows:

  • for funerals;
  • to broadcast acts of worship (by internet, television or radio); or
  • to provide essential voluntary services or public support services (e.g. food banks, help for the homeless, blood donation centres).

Community centres

These must be closed except where they provide essential voluntary activities or community support services (e.g. food banks, shelter for the homeless or vulnerable, blood donation or other emergency support).

Crematoria and burial grounds

These must remain closed to the public, except during a cremation or burial service.

Subsidiary and parent companies

If a business which is required to close forms part of a larger business, the larger business complies by closing the relevant part of the businesses which are required to close, i.e. those carrying on the types of business listed above.

Businesses which are permitted to stay open

The following types of businesses are excluded from the restrictions set out in these Regulations and may therefore continue to operate:

  • Food retailers, including food markets, supermarkets, convenience stores, and corner shops.
  • Off licenses and licensed shops selling alcohol (including breweries).
  • Pharmacies (including non-dispensing pharmacies) and chemists.
  • Newsagents.
  • Homeware, building supplies and hardware stores.
  • Petrol stations.
  • Car repair and MOT services.
  • Bicycle shops.
  • Taxi or vehicle hire businesses.
  • Banks, building societies, credit unions, short term loan providers, and cash points.
  • Post offices.
  • Funeral directors.
  • Laundrettes and dry cleaners.
  • Dental services, opticians, audiology services, chiropody, chiropractors, osteopaths, and other medical or health services, including services relating to mental health.
  • Veterinary surgeons and pet shops.
  • Agricultural supplies shops.
  • Storage and distribution facilities, including delivery drop off or collection points, where the facilities are in the premises of a business included in this list.
  • Car parks.
  • Public toilets.

Restrictions on personal movement

The Regulations also set out restrictions on personal movement. These apply to individuals, not businesses, but are set out here for information.

Individuals may not leave the place where they live, except in the following circumstances:

  • To obtain basic necessities for themself, others in their household, or ‘vulnerable persons’ (see definition below). Basic necessities include food, medicine, and supplies for essential upkeep maintenance or functioning of the household, or money.
  • To take exercise (alone or with others from the same household).
  • To seek medical assistance.
  • To provide care or assistance to a vulnerable person, or provide emergency assistance.
  • To travel to work or voluntary or charitable services, in any case only where it is not possible to do so from home.
  • To attend a funeral (restrictions apply).
  • To fulfil a legal obligation (e.g. attend court).
  • To attend certain critical public services including social services, childcare, schools (applicable to parents who are also key workers), services provided by the Department for Communities, and services for victims of crime.
  • A child visiting a parent he or she does not permanently live with.
  • A minister or religious leader leading a permitted service.
  • To move house, where reasonably necessary.
  • To escape from harm.

A person’s home includes the garden, and any paths, passageways, outhouses, etc.

Homeless people are specifically excluded from the above requirements.

Vulnerable people

The following people are classified as ‘vulnerable’:

  • A person who is 70 or older.
  • A pregnant woman.
  • A person with any of the following underlying health conditions:
    • chronic (long-term) respiratory diseases, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, emphysema or bronchitis;
    • chronic heart disease, such as heart failure;
    • chronic kidney disease;
    • chronic liver disease, such as hepatitis;
    • chronic neurological conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease, motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis, a learning disability or cerebral palsy;
    • diabetes;
    • problems with the spleen, such as sickle cell disease or removal of the spleen;
    • a weakened immune system as the result of conditions such as HIV and AIDS, or medicines such as steroid tablets or chemotherapy;
    • being seriously overweight, with a body mass index of 40 or above; or
    • rare diseases and inborn errors of metabolism that significantly increase the risk of infections such as SCID, homozygous sickle cell.

Restrictions on public gatherings

It is prohibited to gather in groups of more than two a public place, except:

  • where all the people are from the same household;
  • to attend a funeral;
  • where it is essential for work purposes; or
  • where it is reasonably necessary to move house, to attend court or another legal obligation, or to provide assistance to a vulnerable person or provide emergency assistance.


The Regulations provide enforcement powers to police constables and such people designated by the Department of Health.

Enforcement powers include:

  • serving a Prohibition Notice;
  • directing a person to return home, and/or to take a child home or to ensure that the child complies with the restrictions;
  • removing a person to their home (using reasonable force if necessary); and
  • directing a gathering to disperse.

These powers should only be used where they are necessary and proportionate.


Any person who contravenes the duties under these Regulations, or fails (without reasonable excuse) to comply with any direction from a person with enforcement powers, is guilty of an offence which is punishable by a fine.

If a company commits an offence due to the consent, connivance or neglect of a director, manager, secretary or other officer of that company, that person is also guilty of the offence.

The Regulations provide that enforcement officials can serve a fixed penalty notice. Payment of the notice by the person on whom it is served avoids the need for criminal proceedings. The amount of a fixed penalty notice ranges from £30 (first incident) up to £960 (repeated infringements). The Regulations set out procedural rules concerning fixed penalty notices, including the circumstances and process by which a person who has received a fixed penalty notice can challenge it.


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