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What is Northern Ireland's COVID-19 recovery plan?

On 12 May 2020, the Northern Ireland Executive launched their COVID-19 recovery plan, Coronavirus: Our Approach to Decision Making.  The document outlines a roadmap for relaxing COVID-19 rules in Northern Ireland.

Have the lockdown rules changed?

No. The rules to stay home unless you have a reasonable excuse to leave and to practice social distancing are the same.  They will remain in place until at least 28 May.  

What does the recovery plan say? 

The plan outlines five steps in six sectors for easing restrictions. There are NO DATES given for movement to the next steps.   The six sectors are:

  1. Work
  2. Retail
  3. Education
  4. Travel
  5. Family and community
  6. Sport, cultural and leisure activities

FactCheckNI have outlined each of the sectors and the steps here.   You can also find The Northern Ireland Executive's summary of the steps  here.

When will each sector move to the next step?

The Northern Ireland Executive does not give dates for the steps.

This approach differs from the Republic of Ireland government who has attached indicative dates for moving between phases. The UK government has also given projected dates to some measures in England, including the reopening of primary schools.

The steps will not necessarily move forward at the same speed. For example, step 1 for work may apply at a different time than step 1 for retail. If the transmission rate of the virus increases too quickly, it is possible that a sector may have to move a step backwards.

The Northern Ireland Executive will review the guidelines every three weeks and announce any step changes accordingly. It will use the time in between to evaluate the impact of any relaxations that have been made.

The next review of the guidelines will be on 28 May 2020.

How will the Northern Ireland Executive decide when to introduce new steps?

A central aim of the Northern Ireland Executive in deciding how to progress through the five steps is controlling virus transmission. They will use the R number to measure this. If each person with COVID-19 only infects one other person, then the value of R is 1.

The Northern Ireland Executive wants to ensure that the R stays "at or below 1" throughout the process.

The roadmap states that the community transmission rate, R, in Northern Ireland was approximately 0.8 at the time of publication.

Here is a video explaining the ‘R' value.   

Whose guidance is the Northern Ireland Executive following?

Health is a devolved issue in the UK. The Northern Ireland Executive sets its own rules and guidelines about COVID-19.  The new roadmap document underlines that the Executive has aligned its strategy with the WHO guidelines of 24 April 2020.  It emphasises that there is close cooperation between the four regions of the UK, as well as between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

FactCheckNI have written a full article with more information on the Northern Ireland's COVID-19 recovery plan.  You can find it here