Coronavirus (COVID-19): Staying at home and self-isolation

New powers came into force across Northern Ireland at 11.00 pm on Saturday 28 March to combat the spread of coronavirus. The Executive has agreed to adopt the regulations in response to the serious and imminent threat to public health posed by COVID-19. Also, if you have symptoms of, or have been diagnosed with, COVID-19 you must remain at home until you are well.

Staying at home - new powers 

The powers compel the closure of certain premises and prohibit anyone from leaving home without a reasonable excuse.

Gatherings of more than two people are also banned.

Penalties ranging from fixed penalty notices to fines of up to £5,000 are being introduced to enforce the new powers.

The Executive has also agreed that:

  • anyone who can work from home must work from home
  • employers must facilitate working from home where it is feasible
  • no employer should compel an employee to come to work if it is feasible to work from home
  • every employer must take all reasonable steps to safeguard the health, safety and well-being of employees during the COVID-19 emergency, whether working from home or in the workplace
  • every employer must have particular regard to the safety of employees in the workplace and must put into effect the guidance on social distancing 
  • every employer has a legal duty to make sure, so far as it is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all employees
  • where a business is failing to observe the guidance and breaching the legal duty on health and safety, the statutory authorities will take robust action, which may include prosecution for criminal offences
  • where necessary, The Executive Office will also use its power of direction to close or restrict businesses that do not make sure of the safety of their employees

Restrictions on movement

The regulations bring into force restrictions on movement. These include that no-one may leave their home without reasonable excuse.

A reasonable excuse includes the need:

  • to get basic necessities, including food and medical supplies
  • to take exercise either alone or with other members of their household
  • to seek medical assistance
  • to provide care or assistance to a vulnerable person, or to provide emergency assistance
  • to donate blood
  • to travel for the purposes of work or to provide voluntary or charitable services, where it is not reasonably possible for that person to work, or to provide those services, from the place where they are living
  • to attend a funeral of a family member

Restrictions on gatherings

Nobody may take part in a gathering in a public place of more than two people except:

  • where all the persons in the gathering are members of the same household
  • where the gathering is essential for work purposes
  • to attend a funeral

You can find out more at this link:

Even when doing these activities, you should make you are two metres (six feet) apart from anyone outside of your household.

These measures must be followed by everyone.

Ways to make staying at home more manageable

While staying at home it can be helpful to:

  • use delivery services, if possible, to deliver things like food shopping and medicines
  • order repeat prescriptions by phone or online and ask your pharmacy about getting your medication delivered
  • think of other ways to keep in contact with people
  • develop a daily routine -get up at the same time as normal and plan how you will spend your day – cooking, reading, tidying, watching TV
  • listen to the radio or an audio book if your home feels too quiet
  • get as much fresh air as possible

If possible try and build some physical activity into your daily routine such as cleaning or just getting up and walking about the house.

Staying a home if you have symptoms (self-isolation)

If you have symptoms of coronavirus infection (COVID-19), however mild, do not leave your home for seven days from when your symptoms started. This action will help protect others in your community while you are infectious.

If you live with others and you or one of them have symptoms of coronavirus, then all other household members must stay at home and not leave the house for 14 days. The 14-day period starts from the day when the first person in the house became ill.

Ending self-isolation

Guidance on when you should end your self-isolation period is available on the website

Food and medicine

If you have no symptoms and are not self-isolating, you can leave the house to shop for basic necessities, such as food and medicine.

You should order prescriptions and take your medicines as normal. Extra supplies should not be ordered from your doctor.

Stockpiling or buying medication that you do not need is unnecessary and could disadvantage other patients.

Shopping for essential goods

Trips to food shops, pharmacies and other stores should be limited and as infrequent as possible.

Be organised and only buy what you need. Supply chains, from the farmgate or factory to your door are secure. Do not stockpile goods, including medicines.

This has been strengthened by the introduction of measures such as:

  • the designation of essential businesses
  • relaxation of drivers’ hours rules
  • relaxation of council planning restrictions for delivery of essential goods and providers of takeaway foods
  • support to food suppliers

Where possible use online or local delivery services and keep two metres apart from the person dropping the goods off.

Shopping for non-essential goods

Businesses designated as non-essential are no longer open to the public but can operate online.

This means that goods such as furniture or electrical products, clothing or beauty items, are available online for delivery.

Looking after your mental wellbeing

You may find that social distancing and staying at home can be boring, frustrating or lonely and that your mood and feelings are affected.

You may feel low, worried or have problems sleeping and you might miss being with other people.

There is advice and guidance if about how to look after your mental wellbeing:

NHS 111 service

You do not need to call NHS 111 to go into self-isolation. If your symptoms worsen during home isolation or are no better after seven days, contact NHS 111 online.

If you have no internet access, call NHS 111. For a medical emergency dial 999.

More useful links


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