A day of “positive progress” has been hailed as the Stormont Executive agreed to the reopening of indoor hospitality on Monday.
Ministers also agreed a “green list” for international travel, opening the way for holidaymakers to travel to a limited number of foreign destinations without having to quarantine on their return.
Portugal has been included on a list that is in line with those already agreed elsewhere in the UK.
Following the virtual meeting of the Stormont Executive to review the latest raft of Covid-19 rules, it was agreed that from Monday May 24 indoor hospitality can resume while people will be able to meet inside private homes for the first time this year.
Six people from no more than two households will be able to meet in a private dwelling and stay overnight.
All tourism accommodation will also be able to reopen on May 24.
A limit on the size of outdoor gatherings will increase to 500 – a number that will also apply to the number of spectators able to attend sporting fixtures.
Indoor group exercise is allowed again, enabling indoor sports teams to resume training.
Indoor visitor and cultural attractions can also reopen from May 24 – this includes museums, galleries, cinemas, indoor play areas, bowling alleys, amusement arcades, bingo halls and libraries.
In regard to indoor hospitality, people can sit at tables of six people with no limit on households. It will be table service only.
Post-wedding and civil partnership receptions can also take place once again.
There will be no limit on the numbers at the top table, with a limit of 10 for other tables. Dancing will be restricted to a couple’s first dance.
Under relaxations agreed at Thursday’s Executive meeting, Stormont’s Stay Local message is also to be removed.
Schools can resume extra-curricular activities, indoor extra-curricular sports, outdoor inter-schools sports and day educational visits.
Ministers also considered Northern Ireland’s policy on international travel and have agreed a “green list” of countries where people can travel to without having to quarantine on their return.
There were discussions at the Executive whether Portugal would be among the countries on the list, with ministers ultimately agreeing to give the popular holiday destination green status.
The Northern Ireland list will follow those agreed elsewhere in the UK and include destinations like Israel, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and Iceland.
Those travelling back from a number of the green list countries, including Portugal, Singapore and Israel, will have to undergo Covid-19 testing on their return to Northern Ireland.
First Minister Arlene Foster said the Executive was pleased to confirm the reopening of more parts of society.
“After an anxious wait for many, this is great news for our people and our economy,” she said.
“I want to thank the public for their patience and perseverance, and I commend all those sectors who have worked diligently to prepare for restart.
“Now is a time to look ahead and to enjoy these hard-won freedoms safely. We must continue to do all we can as a community to keep ourselves and each other safe, and I appeal to everyone to be cautious to help ensure we can keep heading in the right direction.”
Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said it was a day of “positive progress on our road to recovery”.
“As we begin to rebuild, we are very much focused on personal, societal and economic wellbeing.
“This latest set of easements will have wide-reaching benefits for individuals, families, businesses and workers.
“After what has been an incredibly tough time for everyone, we want people to take the good of being able to do the things they have missed; whether that’s a meal out with friends, a visit to your parents’ house, a family day trip, or a dance class.”
However, she also urged caution.
“The last year has taught us that we can’t take anything for granted, so we are urging everyone to stay safe, be careful and help protect this good progress,” Ms O’Neill added.