By David Young, PA
The reopening of Northern Ireland’s tourism and hospitality sectors have been fast-tracked as part of a series of lockdown relaxations agreed by Stormont ministers.
The powersharing executive has signed off on a plan with three key relaxation dates, April 23, April 30 and May 24.
After lengthy discussions through Thursday ministers brought forward a series of reopening dates they had been initially considering.
With Northern Ireland having marked one million Covid-19 vaccines by last weekend and with other key health and scientific indicators going in the right direction, ministers have agreed the most significant steps out of lockdown to date.
The Deputy First Minister says we must move forward with caution and with maximum mitigations in place to keep coronavirus numbers down.— Q Radio News (@qnewsdesk) April 15, 2021
Michelle O’Neill says ministers can build on today’s relaxations if people remain vigilant. pic.twitter.com/pPuuzzL0Wu
The Stormont Executive has agreed the following lockdown relaxations.
– April 23
Close contact services, hairdressers and beauty salons, reopen.
Outdoors visitor attractions reopen.
Driving lessons can resume. Theory and practical driving tests resume.
Outdoor competitive sport will be allowed with numbers not exceeding 100. No spectators allowed.
Equine assisted learning and therapy can take place outdoors and indoors, limited to 30 people.
– April 30
All remaining non-essential retail to reopen.
Self-contained tourist accommodation, such as caravans and rented holiday homes, can operate.
Licensed and unlicensed premises can serve customers in outdoors settings in groups of six from no more than two householders.
Removal of curfews on takeaways and off licenses.
Reopening of gyms.
Limit on outdoor gatherings in domestic gardens increased to 15 people from no more than three households.
– May 24 (indicative date)
Licensed and unlicensed premises can operate indoors.
Rest of tourist accommodation can reopen.
Domestic gatherings indoors allowed.
Indoors visitor attractions reopen.
Return of indoor group exercise, with numbers limited to suit the size of venue.
Wedding receptions and post-burial events can take place in indoor hospitality venues.
Northern Ireland took some further gradual steps out of lockdown on Monday.
The remainder of post-primary students, years eight to 11, returned to school, while a limited number of outdoor-focused retail outlets, such as garden centres and car dealerships, reopened.
The “stay-at-home” messaging was also replaced with “stay local” advice.
Other relaxations on Monday saw the number of people who can meet outdoors in a garden, including children, increase from six to 10.
Click-and-collect services for non-essential retail also resumed.
Outdoor sports training was allowed for recognised clubs, in groups of up to 15, provided all indoor facilities except toilets remain closed.
The number of people allowed to attend marriage and civil partnership ceremonies also increased, at a level informed by a risk assessment for the venue.