All Covid-19 legal restrictions in Northern Ireland will be replaced by guidance from Tuesday, Health Minister Robin Swann has announced.
Among the Covid-19 restrictions being removed from law are the requirement to wear a face covering in public places and the use of Covid certificates in nightclubs, although their use in all hospitality and entertainment will continue to be encouraged.
Announcing the move, Health Minister Robin Swann told the public not to “jump the gun” and act “as if the pandemic is over.” Before announcing the change, Mr. Swann said he was following the advice of Northern Ireland’s chief medical officer, Sir Michael McBride, and that he had consulted with other ministers in the country.
The health minister said: “Today’s announcement follows consideration of legal advice from the attorney general and consultation with all ministerial colleagues.”
“It moves our response against COVID into a new phase. With the reduced threat from the Omicron variant, we can move away from an emergency and legalistic framework to a new approach where making safer choices is embedded in our daily lives.”
“That means all of us continuing to do our best to cut down risks of infection and transmission. It means looking after each other by following the public health guidance. It must always be remembered that taking unnecessary risks with COVID may affect people who are particularly vulnerable to the virus. So please do not jump the gun and start behaving as if the pandemic is over. That is not the case.”
He added: “Although it has been possible for me to relax these last statutory restrictions without reference to the executive, I am acutely aware that I would not be in the same position – nor would I wish to be – if I were called upon to reintroduce restrictions, or introduce new restrictions, as a result of a new variant for instance.”
“As ministerial colleagues will be aware I intend to ensure that the Department of Health retains temporary powers under public health legislation to act in response to urgent need; but I am aware that even with these powers in place, it is hard to foresee the circumstances under which they could be exercised, if the executive is not restored.”
On Monday, Northern Ireland reported another 2,465 cases of the coronavirus and two deaths.
ARTICLE: PAUL MURDOCH
MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: BBC