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Lockdown latest: Northern Ireland reopens pubs and shops

Find out what the rules are in your area

Lockdown latest: Northern Ireland reopens pubs and shops

Pubs, restaurants and non-essential shops can open their doors once again in Northern Ireland.

This brings the nation into line with the rest of the UK, meaning non-essential retail, pubs and restaurants have begun reopening in every UK nation.

Like in other nations, pubs and restaurants can only serve customers outside with table service.

Here, Which? explains the current rules and upcoming changes under each UK nation’s roadmap out of lockdown, and reveals whether children count towards the rule of six (or four or 10) where you are. Click the links for the rules in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

England’s lockdown rules explained

Shops now open: what are the rules?

Non-essential retail has now reopened in England, with thousands of stores opening their doors for the first time in 2021.

Shops are allowed to stay open until 10pm from Monday to Saturday in a bid to spread out shoppers and avoid congestion.

Primark is opening almost all of its stores in England and Wales for an extra two hours, with times varying by store. And some clothes stores, including John Lewis and M&S, have reopened fitting rooms for the first time since the first lockdown.

Pubs and restaurants partially reopened: what are the rules?

Pubs and restaurants are now open in England, although punters must sit outside and it’s table service only – so no popping inside to order a pint from the bar.

What are the rules at hairdressers and barbers?

People in England can finally get their lockdown hair fixed by a professional. Hairdressers and barbers are open once again, although if you haven’t booked an appointment already you may have to wait a while for one.

What else is now open?

  • Public buildings such as libraries and community centres
  • Personal care services such as beauty salons and nail bars
  • Outdoor attractions such as zoos and theme parks
  • Small outdoor events such as fetes
  • Indoor leisure and sports facilities for individual activities or exercise within your household or support bubble
  • Parent and child groups for up to 15 people (children under the age of five don’t count towards the 15)
  • Weddings, civil partnerships, wakes and other commemorative events for up to 15 people (not including staff) at indoor venues that are permitted to open
  • Outdoor wedding receptions for up to 15 people
  • Self-contained holiday accommodation, provided you’re with your household or support bubble (but the government still advises minimising travel as much as possible)
  • Care home residents can nominate up to two people who can visit them indoors

You can find the full details of the rules and upcoming changes on the government’s national lockdown page.

What are the rules for meeting friends and family?

Limited outdoor socialising is now allowed under the ‘rule of six’ – but the ways this rule works are slightly different from last year.

First, you can actually either have up to six people from any number of households, or any number of people from two households meeting outdoors.

And second, unlike the previous version of the rule of six, children of all ages now count towards the six-person limit.

Indoor socialising is not allowed yet. According to the government’s roadmap, this could be allowed from 17 May at the earliest.

Scotland’s Covid-19 restrictions

Scotland’s ‘stay at home’ guidance has now changed to ‘stay local’, meaning you’re advised not to leave your local authority.

Shops and pubs now open

Non-essential retailers are now open in Scotland.

Pubs and restaurants can also open, but you have to sit outdoors.

Can I get a haircut?

Hairdressers and barbers are now back up and running.

What are the rules around meeting friends and family?

Six people from up to six different households can now meet up outside in Scotland. Children under the age of 12 don’t count towards the ‘rule of six’.

What are the rules in Wales?

Shops and pubs now open

Wales’ non-essential retailers are now open. Outdoor hospitality has also resumed.

What about hairdressers?

You can go to the hairdressers or barber shop, as well as other close-contact services such as beauty salons.

What are the rules around meeting friends and family?

The ‘stay local’ rule ended on 29 March, meaning residents can now travel anywhere in Wales.

Six people from up to two households are allowed to meet outdoors with social distancing.

Children under the age of 11 and carers don’t count towards the six.

Northern Ireland’s restrictions explained

Shops and pubs now open

Northern Ireland’s non-essential shops, pubs and restaurants are now open.

When can I get a haircut?

Hairdressers and barbers have now reopened, along with other close-contact services such as beauty and nail salons.

When can I meet friends and family?

Northern Ireland’s current rules for socialising are the most complex in the UK, with different limits applying to different situations.

  • Like elsewhere in the UK, there’s no indoor mixing of households allowed.
  • In private gardens, up to 15 people from up to three households can meet.
  • In public outdoor spaces such as parks, 10 people can meet from two households.
  • In outdoor hospitality, six people from two households can meet.

Children do count towards these limits.

What about travel and holidays?

Currently, holidays in self-catered accommodation are allowed in every UK nation, as long as you travel and stay with your own household.

International holidays are still banned, and travelling for essential reasons is very difficult right now. Many countries have banned incoming travellers from the UK due to the new variant present here.

The UK has now closed all its ‘travel corridors’, so you need a negative Covid-19 test to be allowed into the UK and have to quarantine when you return home, and quarantine in a hotel if you’re arriving from a ‘red list’ country.

All of this means that people who have booked holidays should be offered refunds if their flights are cancelled or hotels are closed. But if your flight goes ahead, you may not be able to get your money back.

While many insurers now offer ‘coronavirus cancellation cover’, this often only covers you if you or someone you’re travelling with catches the virus. Only a handful of insurers will cover you for cancelling due to a new lockdown.

A new ‘traffic light’ system for international travel, which will apply to England from 17 May at earliest, has been announced by the UK government. But so far, the full details have not been revealed.


This story was first published on 23 June 2020 and has been regularly updated since to reflect changes to the guidelines. The latest update was on 30 April 2021.

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