Northern Ireland's leaders have urged caution as the latest relaxations to Covid-19 regulations come into effect.

From today, up to 30 people will be permitted in private dwellings and the requirement for audience members to be seated when watching performances in indoor venues will be removed.

However large house parties will still not be permitted.

Further relaxations, including restrictions on dancing indoors and the reopening of nightclubs, will apply from 31 October.

The easing of restrictions comes as six further deaths of patients who had previously tested positive for Covid-19 have been reported.

The Department of Health has also reported another 1,304 cases of the virus.

This morning, there were 345 Covid-positive patients in hospital, of whom 38 were in intensive care.

To date 2,565,983 vaccines have been administered.

Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill said Northern Ireland is going through a sustained period of high level of Covid cases at present, but added that "hospital cases are beginning to fall ever so slightly."

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, she said that the data must be monitored carefully.

However, the Sinn Féin deputy leader added that she would prefer to avoid the return of restrictions.

A system of certification will be ready to go by the end of the month, if needed, she said, but stressed that she would prefer to avoid this.

Ms O'Neill said the approach she prefers is that of partnership with sectors rather than enforcing strict rules on people.


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Ms O'Neill and First Minister Paul Givan have urged people to continue to follow public health guidance.

"Over the next fortnight, many of the last restrictions on how we socialise and engage together will be lifted," Mr Givan said.

"This is an important point to reach, and it has taken a determined and combined effort across society to get us here. I'm proud of the powerful, positive community spirit and the shared determination to keep everyone as safe as possible.

"While it is right that we take heart from the relaxations now allowed, we must also keep doing our bit to protect and drive on progress.

"This is about personal responsibility and whether you are a customer, worker, student or business owner, keep following the remaining rules when you are out and about."