What are the current Covid-19 rules in Northern Ireland?

Photo by K. Mitch Hodge on Unsplash

Covid-19 restrictions differ across the UK. Northern Ireland’s Covid-19 restrictions ended in February, transitioning from legally binding to public guidance. But more changes around testing will come into effect in April. Here are the current Covid-19 rules in Northern Ireland and what to expect at the end of the month.

[Note: we last updated this article in June 2022, and aim to keep up to date with the latest information as we receive it]

The relaxation of Covid restrictions by Northern Ireland’s Health Minister means that people will not face punishment if they choose not to follow guidance such as wearing a mask or self-isolating. Nevertheless, people are encouraged to do so in order to reduce the spread of Covid-19 and prevent new variants emerging.

Face Coverings

The government recommends that face masks continue to be worn in places such as enclosed public spaces and health and social care settings. However, this is no longer a legal requirement. This includes for pupils in schools or education.

Social Distancing

As with all of the devolved nations in the UK, people in Northern Ireland are encouraged to meet outside or in well-ventilated areas to minimise the risk of catching and spreading Covid-19. But the requirement to stay 2m (6ft) apart no longer applies. This includes in office spaces.

Self-Isolation

Northern Ireland’s position on self-isolation, unlike the rest of the UK, was never legally binding. Instead, it was classed as “very strong guidance” and remains as follows:

Anyone who tests positive for Covid-19 should self-isolate for 10 days following the start of their symptoms or the day of their positive result (whichever is sooner). You are permitted to leave isolation early if you receive two negative Lateral Flow Test results on day five and day six, with both tests taken 24 hours apart. Stay home if you have a high temperature.

If you have Covid-19 symptoms, it is strongly advised that you stay home to protect others.

Testing and Contact Tracing

PCR and LFT tests are still available for free to the general public in Northern Ireland and this will continue until 22 April. People with symptoms are advised to test as soon as possible and follow the self-isolation guidance if required.

Covid passports and certificates are still recommended for use in hospitality and entertainment venues and the test and contact tracing system remains in place for those who wish to use it. But, this will be phased out between April and June.

From 22 April:

  • Lateral Flow Tests will be free for those displaying Covid-19 symptoms.

  • PCR tests will only be available to those who require one for medical reasons.

  • Public Covid-19 test sites will close.

  • Asymptomatic LFT testing will only be recommended for people in hospital and care settings.

  • Access to free LFTs for the wider asymptomatic population will end. This includes schools.

Travelling Abroad

From 18 March, Northern Ireland removed all international Covid-19 travel restrictions for those travelling to the country. Travellers are not required to complete a Passenger Locator Form (PLF) and hotel quarantine has ended.

It is advised that people who feel unwell should not travel and should instead follow the public health guidance.

Travellers heading outbound from Northern Ireland should follow the guidance of their destination country.

Although Covid restrictions are easing in the UK, it’s important to remember that Covid-19 still exists. We all need to do our part to protect ourselves and others.

Restrictions can change quickly with the emergence of new variants, so it’s important to stay up-to-date. If you’re planning to travel to other parts of the UK, remember to look up the Covid-19 guidance for England, Scotland and Wales.

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