Northern Ireland unveils five-point plan for exiting coronavirus lockdown

Groups of four to six people who do not share a household will be allowed to meet outdoors while maintaining social distancing in one of the first steps in Northern Ireland’s road map out of lockdown.

A five-point plan with no firm dates has been published for exiting coronavirus restrictions.

Those unable to work from home will be encouraged to return to work on a phased basis in another early shift if the reproductive rate at which the virus is spread continues to decline below one.

Large outdoor-based retailers such as garden centres will also be permitted to reopen in the first step as life edges its way back towards normality.

The decision on when to make changes will be guided primarily by the medical and scientific evidence and the NHS’s capacity to cope.

There is flexibility for different parts of the economy such as return to schooling and increased use of public transport to move at different paces.

Drive-through church services will be available and churches will open for private prayer at an early stage.

Outdoor spaces and public sport amenities will also be included in the first step of reopening.

Large indoor gatherings, nightclubs, concerts, close physical contact sports, restaurants, cafes, pubs and early years education will be included in the final, step five, relaxation.

Stormont’s next regular three-weekly review of the restrictions is due at the end of May but will be guided by the medical evidence at the time.