Northern Ireland ministers have agreed to follow a rule change to international travel adopted by other parts of the UK and allow travellers from European Union amber list countries and the United States who are fully vaccinated to enter without the need to quarantine from Monday.

The Stormont Executive has also decided to allow UEFA VIP guests and Villarreal fans to travel to attend the Super Cup match in Belfast on 11 August without the need to isolate.

Chelsea fans travelling from England for the showpiece match are already not subject to any travel restrictions.

Ministers agreed to the return of international cruise travel in and out of Northern Ireland from Saturday.

Managed isolation arrangements for international students arriving from red list countries ahead of the new academic term have also been approved and will come into effect on 9 August.

The executive signed off on a bespoke Covid-19 testing regime for international travellers whose jobs qualify them for isolation exemptions. This will begin on Monday.

It also decided to relax some of the rules and guidance around social distancing.

All indoor settings will apply a one-metre rule. This will bring retail and shopping centres, where a two-metre rule currently applies, into line with the regulation for other indoor venues such as hospitality outlets.

In outdoor settings, social distancing is not a requirement and is instead urged in guidance. The guidance had urged two metres as an appropriate distance. Guidance will now change to say a distance of between one to two metres should be observed.

Ministers extended a decision on allowing the full return of live music at theatres and concert venues to cover other indoor venues, such as hotel function rooms and community halls.

There will be no restriction on volume level.

Dancing will not be permitted at indoor events and a social distance of one metre will be required.

Decisions around the use of face coverings in schools and on whether to allow the return of conferences and exhibitions have been pushed back to the executive's next meeting on 12 August.

The changes come as the Department of Health reported 1,471 new cases Covid-19 and two coronavirus-related deaths in the past 24 hours.

In total, 2,239,652 vaccines have been administered in Northern Ireland.


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The weekly update from senior health officials informed ministers of evidence that rising positive case numbers may have "plateaued" in recent days.

Two explanations are offered for this: altered behaviours due to the good weather or higher levels of immunity among younger people. If it is the former, the advisers predict that case numbers will start to rise again; if it is the latter they expect a gradual decline in case numbers.

Minsters were told the reproduction rate of the virus has fallen, though it remains "significantly above 1" within a range of 1.2 to 1.6.

Officials said that hospital inpatient numbers and intensive care admissions are increasing at a "rapid rate".

However, they predicted that hospital numbers may stabilise in the next seven to 10 days.

The Department of Health briefing paper said that intensive care numbers are "higher than we would have expected at this stage".

In terms of modelling the virus, the officials said the trajectory of case numbers is tracking between central and optimistic scenarios while hospital admissions are between the pessimistic and central models.

Ministers were also told that the Delta variant of Covid-19 now accounts for 90% of cases in Northern Ireland.