ALL REMAINING Covid-19 restrictions in Northern Ireland are to be lifted today, with them being replaced with guidance issued to the public.
Health Minister Robin Swann announced the move yesterday, following on from consideration of legal advice from the Attorney General and consultation with all Ministerial colleagues.
The rules being removed from law are the use of Covid certificates in nightclubs, face coverings, track and trace requirements and the cap on 30 people allowed in private homes.
However, he strongly emphasised the continuing need for caution and vigilance in relation to the virus.
"With the reduced threat from the Omicron variant, we can move away from an emergency and legalistic framework to a new approach where making safer choices is embedded in our daily lives," he said.
"That means all of us continuing to do our best to cut down risks of infection and transmission. It means looking after each other by following the public health guidance."
Swann also asked that people "do not jump the gun and start behaving as if the pandemic is over."
"That is not the case. The most vulnerable as a result of underlying disease remain susceptible to severe illness and it is important that we all do what we can to protect them."
The expectation from public health assessments is that no significant rise in ICU occupancy is expected.
However, there are no plans for changes to the current arrangements for testing, contact tracing and isolation in Northern Ireland.
The importance of wearing face coverings in health and social care settings, on public transport and in enclosed indoor settings will continue to be strongly emphasised.
Vaccine certification will also continue to be available to the public, including for those who need it for travel abroad to satisfy entry requirements of countries they are visiting.
Sinn Féin's Michelle O'Neill welcomed the decision, saying that there are "brighter days ahead".
Brighter days are ahead as all COVID regulations will be lifted from tomorrow
Thank you for your efforts and the sacrifices that you made
Thank you for looking after each other
And thank you to our healthcare and frontline workers
This day belongs to each and everyone of you pic.twitter.com/wqM3fENtKv
— Michelle O’Neill (@moneillsf) February 14, 2022
SDLP Deputy Leader Nichola Mallon MLA also welcomed the news.
"This decision should never have been placed in jeopardy by the DUP which has prioritised political stunts over the needs of the people we all represent," she said.
"After all the sacrifices that people, families and businesses have made over the last two years, we are at last in a position to ease remaining restrictions.
"I would urge people, however, to continue to exercise caution in crowded places, keep washing your hands and keep doing everything you can to stay safe. The virus remains with us but if we all work together, we can keep our recovery on track."