COVID-19 advice - Northern Ireland

Last updated on: 8 July 2020

Each of the devolved nations has its own approach to handling the COVID-19 crisis. Here you’ll find the specific details for people living in Northern Ireland. 

Northern Ireland will make further revisions to ease lockdown as part of their five stage roadmap to recovery. While things are changing, we still need to follow the guidance on staying home as much as possible and limiting contact with others, social distancing and hygiene.

We’re regularly updating coronavirus information to ensure you have the most up-to-date and relevant content available.

Latest updates

Hotels, restaurants, cafes and coffee shops can open now, together with and hair salons and nail bars.

For the latest updates on what you can and can't do, read heath ni gov uk website

Meeting other people

Indoor meetings of up to six people can now take place. Meeting friends and family indoors carries a higher risk than meeting outdoors. If possible, you should continue to arrange meetings with family and friends outdoors.

If you decide to meet indoors you should do so as safely as possible and follow public health advice by:

  • limiting the duration of visits
  • ensuring good ventilation
  • maintaining good hand hygiene
  • practicing social distancing where possible. From 29 June, people should remain 1m apart.
  • The use of a face covering is also strongly advised.

Overnight stays are not permitted and those who are medically shielding are strongly advised to continue following the advice that remains in place for that group until the shielding period is paused on 31 July.

Forming a bubble

People who live alone are permitted to visit one other household indoors to form a bubble.

The bubble would therefore contain two households forming a single unit, that is the person living on their own and members of the other household, where social distancing between them would no longer be required.

Updates for people who are shielding

People advised to shield can go outdoors while maintaining strict social distancing:

  • with members of their household, or
  • if they live alone they can meet one person from another household (preferably the same person each time)

If the risk continues to be low, people who are following the shielding advice are able to meet up to six people outside of their home, as long as social distancing is strictly observed.

If you are shielding alone, you can also form a support bubble with one other household. Where you form a bubble:

  • social distancing is not required with the other household in your bubble; this will allow you to visit, stay over and spend more time with the second household
  • the second household can be of any size; and
  • both households should not be part of more than one bubble and should continue to socially distance outside the bubble.

Social distancing (staying 1 metre apart) should continue to be followed. People who are shielding remain vulnerable and should continue to take precautions.  It is still best to stay at home as much as possible.

Read the latest guidance on the easing of lockdown and what the changes will mean for you.

Support if shielding 

If you’re in the highest risk group for coronavirus you may decide to continue to stay at home and avoid face-to-face contact, except from carers and healthcare workers you must see as part of your medical care.

People who live with you and/or provide care for you should help you to stay safe by closely following guidance on physical distancing, reducing their contact inside and outside the home.

If you’re shielding because you are in the highest risk group for coronavirus, then you’ll probably need support in order to get food and other essential supplies and services.

This support can be from family, friends or neighbours as long as they carefully follow physical distancing guidance. Or you could use online services to order essentials. You can register online for priority access to supermarket delivery slots. Read the NI Direct guidance on shielding.

Social distancing

Social distancing means staying at home except for a few specific purposes. These include work (if you can’t work at home), exercise, collecting food or medical supplies, receiving essential healthcare or providing care for someone vulnerable.

When you do need to leave your home try, wherever possible, to keep at least two metres from anyone who is not a member of your own household. From 18 May outdoor gatherings of up to six people not from the same household are allowed with social distancing.

Hygiene is also important. Wash your hands regularly for at least 20 seconds using soap and water; when these aren’t readily available, use a hand sanitiser gel instead.

For a full list of reasons you can leave the house for, read the guidance on the NI Direct website.

What about face masks?

The Northern Ireland Government recommends that you consider some form of facial covering for short periods when entering confined spaces such as public transport and some shops. However, this is optional, not a requirement.

Face coverings should not be used in place of physical distancing and good hygiene.

Rules about exercise and outdoor activity

You can leave your home to exercise, unless you have symptoms of coronavirus or have been identified as needing to shield yourself against coronavirus.

Outdoor spaces and public sport amenities are open to allow walking, running, cycling, some water activities, golf and tennis, while maintaining social distancing. Read more information about exercise on the Public Health Agency website.


You should self-isolate if you or somebody else in your household develops symptoms of coronavirus. This means not leaving your home for any reason and not having visitors, unless it’s for essential medical care.

You’ll need to arrange for food and essential supplies to be delivered and these should be left at your door to minimise contact with the delivery person.

Read the NI Direct guidance on self-isolating.


There’s a freephone helpline number 0808 802 0020 for vulnerable people. Or you can complete a form on the Advice NI website, email or text ACTION to 81025. You can find a directory of other useful helplines on the Helplines NI website.


The Department of Health has developed a Covid-19 NI app - search for Covid-19 NI on the Apple app store or Covid-19 NI on Google Play and an online symptom checker.

Health and Social Care (HSC) in NI has developed a library of smartphone apps to support health and social well being.

Staying safe at work

Read the latest guidance for employers and employees to keep safe in the workplace during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Frequently Asked Questions

The Public Health Agency has produced a useful list of FAQs.

Keep updated

If you’re feeling isolated from family and friends during these uncertain times, we’re here for you. Find out more about the support available in your area.

Stay in touch and follow us on Northern Ireland Versus Arthritis Facebook and Northern Ireland Versus Arthritis Twitter.

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