The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2021
Jurisdiction: Northern Ireland
Commencement: 9 April 2021
Amends: New Legislation
These Regulations are designed to protect public health by preventing the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19).
The Regulations apply to various types of businesses and other organisations that are required to close or restrict their activities. They also apply to individuals, prohibiting people from attending certain types of gatherings, or from entering certain restricted places.
These Regulations apply in Northern Ireland only. There are different Regulations in England, Scotland and Wales. Note that the requirements differ between jurisdictions.
These Regulations came into force on 9th April 2021 and revoke The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (No. 2) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2020.
Businesses which are required to close
The Regulations impose requirements on various types of businesses and organisations that are required to close in order to restrict the spread of Coronavirus. The requirements are restricted to businesses where significant numbers of people congregate, or where there is a higher risk of transmission of Coronavirus due to close personal contact.
Other duties for businesses
The Regulations give the Department of Health power to issue an order for the closure or partial restriction of specific places. Where this occurs, local authorities or organisations that control restricted places must take reasonable steps to prevent people from entering the restricted place.
Restrictions on individual movements
Restrictions on premises
Requirement to close businesses and other premises
Persons responsible for the running of businesses or other premises listed in Part 1 of Schedule 1 must close those businesses or other premises.
Essential retail businesses (listed in Part 2 of Schedule 1) are not required to close.
Non-essential retail businesses (those not listed in Part 2 of Schedule 1) may continue to operate via delivery or click and collect services where the order and payment is received via:
- online communication;
- text message; or
Restrictions on the hospitality sector
A person responsible for carrying on a business or a members’ club which sells or provides food or drink (including alcohol) for consumption on the premises must:
- close all or part of the premises in which food or drink is consumed (including seating, tables and other similar facilities); and
- not sell or provide food or drink on its premises.
Food or drink, not including alcohol, may still be sold for consumption off the premises (e.g. take away food services) where orders are placed between 5:00am and 11:00pm.
Restrictions on off-licence businesses
A person responsible for carrying on a business which sells or provides alcohol for consumption off the premises (but not including a bar, members’ club or public house) may continue to do so between:
- 8:00am and 8:00pm Monday to Saturday; and
- 10:00am and 8:00pm on Sunday.
Restrictions on gatherings and events
Restrictions on indoor gatherings
Indoor gatherings are only permitted if they are attended by no more than 6 persons from no more than 2 households.
Restrictions on outdoor gatherings
Outdoor gatherings are only permitted if they are attended by no more than 10 persons from no more than 2 households.
Organising a specified event/activity
Organising one of the following events comes with specific requirements:
- A funeral.
- A marriage ceremony/civil partnership ceremony.
- An educations activity.
- A workplace gathering.
- A blood donation/vaccination session.
The person organising the event/activity must complete a risk assessment that satisfies the requirements laid out in The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2000 and takes all reasonable measures to limit the risk of transmission of Coronavirus by complying with any guidance issued by the Department of Health.
Up to 4 visitors are now allowed into venues hosting wedding/civil partnership ceremonies for the purposes of viewing the facility.
Note the restrictions on gatherings do not apply where it is necessary to avoid injury, illness, escape risk of harm or to provide emergency or medical assistance to any person.
Restrictions on sporting events
Individuals are prohibited from organising, operating or participating in an indoor or outdoor sporting event.
Exemptions to restrictions on sporting events
- Where all participants are elite athletes.
- The event is physical education is delivered by an educational facility (i.e. schools).
- The event takes place outdoors and the number of participants does not exceed 10 persons from no more than 2 households.
Restrictions on individuals movement
No person may stay overnight from the place where they or members of their linked household normally live without reasonable excuse. A person may be exempt from this requirement if they have a reasonable excuse, a list of the accepted reasonable excuses can be found in regulation 13(2).
Close contact service and social distancing requirements
Collection of visitor information
A person responsible for providing close contact services, services listed in regulation 15(1b) or organising a gathering which is a marriage/civil partnership ceremony are required to:
- obtain visitor information* at the time of visit;
- record visitor information in a filing system suitable for recording, storing and retrieving information (this may be electronically, or paper based); and
- keep visitor information for 21 days, beginning with the date on which the first visit occurred.
Visitor information must be provided within 24 hours, upon request of a relevant person**.
*Visitor information includes:
- the name and telephone number of one member of each household visiting the premises;
- the date and arrival time of visit; and
- the number of members of the person’s household visiting the premises.
** A relevant person is:
- a police constable; or
- a person designated by the Department of Health.
Close contact services
A person responsible for operating a close contact service listed in Schedule 2 must stop providing that service. Close contact services may still operate only if one of the following conditions are met:
- It is provided for the purpose of film or television production.
- It is provided for the purposes of sport massage therapy or is required for medical, health and social care services.
- It is provided for the purposes of driving lessons on behalf of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service Health and Social Care Trust or the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Board.
Requirements to implement social distancing measures
A person responsible for the organisation or operation of a relevant place* must take reasonable measures to ensure that their representatives, employees and visitors to such a place, comply with social distancing measures at all times.
*A relevant place is:
- a shop;
- an enclosed shopping centre, (excluding any area open to the public and where seating or tables are made available for the consumption of food and drink); or
- a venue at which intoxicating liquor may be consumed.
**Social distancing measures are actions taken for the purpose of minimising the risk of exposure to or spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19).
Social distancing measures require a responsible person to take reasonable steps to ensure:
- that representatives, employees and visitors to a relevant place, are provided with information on how to minimise the risk of exposure to and the spread of Coronavirus;
- that representatives, employees and visitors to a relevant place maintain a distance of 2 metres from each other (unless members of the same or a linked household) by altering the layout of a relevant place, managing and controlling the use of points of access and egress, shared facilities (such as toilets) and managing and controlling movement within the relevant place;
- that persons waiting to enter a relevant place maintain a distance of 2 metres from each other (unless members of the same or a linked household);
- that a relevant place is regularly cleaned, hygiene is maintained and in particular, points or places which are likely to be used frequently by representatives, employees and visitors (such as entry barriers and gates and card terminals) are regularly sanitised.
Where it is not reasonably practicable for a social distance of 2 metres to be maintained, a responsible person should take reasonable steps to ensure that:
- any close face to face contact is limited between persons;
- barriers or screens are installed and maintained; and
- personal protective equipment is used where appropriate and made readily available.
The Regulations provide enforcement powers to police constables and other such persons designated by the Department of Health.
Enforcement powers include:
- serving a Prohibition Notice;
- directing a person to return home and/or take a child home or to ensure the child complies with the restrictions;
- taking a person back to their home (using reasonable force if necessary);
- directing a gathering to disperse; and
- removing an individual from a gathering and returning them to the place where they live (using reasonable force if necessary).
These powers should only be used where they are necessary and proportionate.
Note: A person to whom a premises improvement notice or a prohibition notice is issued may appeal to a court of summary jurisdiction against the notice within 7 days after the day the notice is issued.
These Regulations provide that enforcement officials can serve a fixed penalty notice. The amount of a fixed penalty notice for businesses or organisers of events ranges from £1,000 for a first incident of receiving the notice, up to a maximum of £10,000 for repeated infringements. The Regulations set out procedural rules concerning fixed penalty notices, including the circumstances and processes by which a person who has received a fixed penalty notice can challenge it.
The following changes to the requirements are made:
- Click and collect services can now be provided by non-essential retailers.
- Up to 4 visitors are now allowed into venues hosting wedding/civil partnership ceremonies for the purposes of viewing the facility.
- Removing restrictions on movement. The only restrictions that are still in place is the ban on staying overnight from the place in which a person (or a person in their extended household) lives.
- Adding several businesses (listed in regulation 19) to the list of essential retail businesses, allowing them to reopen.
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