The Northern Ireland Executive plans to ease Covid-19 restrictions further early next month, providing the rate of infection does not rise.

A number of restrictions will be lifted from 8 June if the reproduction number remains at or below its current rate of 0.9.

If that happens, outdoor weddings and civil partnership ceremonies will be allowed, with attendance limited to ten people.

Large outdoor non-food retailers such as car showrooms will be allowed to open.

Hotels will also be allowed to begin taking advance bookings in preparation for when they will be able to accept guests, but there is no indication yet as to when that is likely to be.

Following a review of the Coronavirus regulations, the Stormont Executive said the rate of transmission, the R number, has increased slightly since a number of restrictions were lifted earlier this month.

It said the rate will be monitored over the next ten days before a final decision is made about whether to relax restrictions further.


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Other activities to be permitted include taking pets for treatment or grooming and the opening of outdoor sports facilities.

Meanwhile contacting tracing to track coronavirus infections is likely to continue in Northern Ireland for the next two years, the First Minister has indicated.

Arlene Foster described contract tracing as "another key component of keeping the virus under control".

She told Stormont's daily media briefing that staff are to be recruited for a period of two years for the programme.

Mrs Foster detailed how over seven days, from 19-25 May, 212 cases were contact traced, about 30 per day, by 99 health and social care staff who have been redeployed.

A contact tracing programme, aimed to identify and alert people who have come into contact with a person infected with coronavirus, was piloted in Northern Ireland from 27 April before being fully rolled out earlier this month.

Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill said "considerable work" was involved.

"That is going to be a crucial part of our recovery and as we work in the absence of having a vaccine, it is really important that we roll this work out because it allows us to lift more restrictions," she said.

The Department of Health in Northern Ireland has confirmed two more deaths related to Covid-19. This brings the total death toll there to 518.

The total number of lab-completed positive cases there is 4,679, a rise of 16 in the past day.