NI Executive gives green light for return of live music

The Stormont Executive has given the green light for the return of live music from July 5.

Ministers met on Thursday and agreed to press ahead with some further – mainly outdoor-based – relaxations of Covid-19 rules

They were told that the Delta variant of the virus now accounts for 75% of cases in Northern Ireland and agreed to monitor the situation closely.

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Ministers agreed to move forward on a select number of areas where there was less risk of infection.

The relaxations given the nod to include no limit on sounds levels for music outdoors, while indoor music can resume at ambient levels with a screen in front of musicians.

A cap on outdoor gatherings of 500 will be removed from Friday, although events will require a risk assessment.

From July 5, the number of households permitted to meet outdoors at private dwellings will increase from three to five, with the maximum number of people remaining at 15.

Overnight residential stays for children are also set to be allowed to resume.

The Executive is set to review progress on the Pathway out of Restrictions plan at its meeting next Thursday, and consider the sequencing of further relaxations.

Communities minister Deirdre Hargey said the latest relaxations were “great news for our musicians”.

“I have been advocating for these restrictions to be relaxed, I am pleased the Executive has made that decision today,” she said in a video message on social media.

Hospitality Ulster also welcomed the development.

Operations director Joel Neill said it had been a long 16 months for musicians and the wider sector.

“Today’s announcement is another step towards normality,” he said.

“Music is a highly valuable offering within the hospitality industry, and as we enter into the summer months, customers will be looking for that overall entertainment experience.”

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The reproduction number of the virus has been estimated as above 1, within a range of between 1.2 and 1.6.

There were 375 confirmed new cases of Covid-19 reported in Northern Ireland on Wednesday, the highest daily total in the region since February. That figure remained over 300 on Thursday.

Also on Thursday morning, there were 21 Covid-positive patients in hospital, of whom two were in intensive care.