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Lockdown: What Are the Rules?

This article was written on 01 May 2020 while NI was in Lockdown.  The information and guidance will change as the NI COVID-19 Recovery Plan is implemented.  For the most up-to-date information go to our article on the recovery plan here or NI Direct 

What is ‘Lockdown’?  

These are the Government rules to limit contact between people to stop the spread of COVID-19.  In Northern Ireland everyone must stay at home unless they have a reasonable excuse or need for leaving.  If you leave the house, you must stay more than 2m (6ft) apart from anyone outside your household.  This is called social distancing.

Are the rules the same in NI, UK and ROI?

The rules are slightly different in in England, Scotland, Wales and the Republic of Ireland.  However, the main messages to stay home unless you have a reasonable excuse to leave and to practice social distancing are the same.

What are the rules in Northern Ireland?

You should only leave your house if you have a reasonable excuse or need to leave.  These include to:

  • Shop for food and basic necessities.You should try and do this on as few visits to shops as possible.
  • Collect medication
  • Take your pet or livestock to the vet
  • Exercise, e.g. run, walk or cycle.You should only exercise alone or the people you live with
  • Get medical help or for a medical need
  • Donate blood
  • Avoid or escape risk of injury or harm
  • Provide care or help a vulnerable person
  • Travel for work reasons (only if you cannot work from home)
  • Attend a funeral of a close family member or someone that you live with
  • Fulfil a legal obligation
  • Access critical public services 
  • Move house if absolutely necessary

These rules also say that:

  • Gatherings of more than 2 people are not allowed (unless the people live together, are together for work or are going to a funeral)

What is the guidance around exercising outside during the lockdown?

  • If you are going outside to exercise, you can only do this once a day
  • If you or your child has a medical need (e.g. those with learning disabilities or autism) you can exercise more than once a day
  • You should stay close to home to exercise
  • Forest and country parks are open.The car parks will be closed, but if you live close by you can use them to exercise.
  • In many areas local councils manage the parks.Some councils have made the decision to close parks if it is not possible for people to social distance when they visit the park.More information is available on council websites.

How is the law enforced in Northern Ireland?

The PSNI (Police Service of Northern Ireland) have been given the power to issue fines or ‘remove’ people to their home if they are not following the new rules.

They have asked people take a ‘common sense approach’ to choosing where to go to exercise. You might be allowed to travel to exercise but your decision to do this must reasonable e.g. you can’t decide to take a long drive to go to the beach on a sunny day.  The PSNI can stop and ask you whether you have a reasonable excuse to leave your home.

What businesses and jobs are essential during the lockdown?

The Government has shared a list of essential businesses and jobs.  These are jobs and businesses that are considered important to help keep the country running during the lockdown.  People in these jobs and businesses can continue to travel to work during the lockdown. Guidance has also been provided for employers and employees to keep themselves and their workplaces safe.  More information can be found here

Where do I find more information?

FactCheckNI have written a full article with more information on the rules of lockdown. You can find it here