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The Executive has today taken a number of decisions as part of its ongoing response to the Coronavirus pandemic.

Ministers received an update on the progression of the epidemic, which shows that the R number is now above 1. They have emphasised the need for continued vigilance and adherence to all public health advice.

Ministers have decided that the use of face coverings in certain indoor settings, including shops, will be mandatory from Monday, August 10.

It was agreed that a cross-departmental high street task force will be established to consider and address the key issues affecting businesses.

The Executive has agreed the Education Minister’s plan for schools to return to more normal patterns of operation and attendance from the week beginning August 31. Revised guidance will be published next week setting out an updated approach to the full reopening of schools.

The Executive has agreed that theatres and concert halls can open on a restricted basis from August 8 for the purpose of rehearsals. An indicative date of September 1 has been given for the return of audiences with appropriate mitigations.

Ministers have also agreed to permit spectators to be present at indoor sporting venues from August 10. This is on the basis that the operator can control access and ensure adherence to social distancing.

In light of the scientific evidence and medical advice on the progression of the Covid-19 epidemic, the Executive has decided it is necessary to put on hold the reopening of bars, pubs and private members’ clubs selling only drink. A new indicative date of September 1 has been given. Ministers understand this decision will have significant implications for the sector and will engage quickly with representative organisations around the pressures being experienced by businesses and how they can best be supported.

It has also been agreed that further work is needed to risk assess the reopening of soft play areas and these venues are still required to close. Engagement on this issue will continue and further clarity will be provided as soon as possible.