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Dublin: 2°C Thursday 26 November 2020
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People living alone in Northern Ireland can reunite with families today

It means an isolated grandparent will be able to see their grandchildren again, or partners separated by the pandemic can meet up.

Shoppers in Belfast yesterday after shopping centres and retailers were given the green light to reopen.
Shoppers in Belfast yesterday after shopping centres and retailers were given the green light to reopen.
Image: Brian Lawless/PA Images

PEOPLE LIVING ALONE will be reunited with their families today after three months of the coronavirus lockdown in Northern Ireland and England.

They will be able to meet with one other household – forming a so-called “support bubble” – to combat loneliness caused by the restrictions.

It means an isolated grandparent will be able to see grandchildren again, or partners separated by the pandemic since March can meet up.

There is no social distancing restriction attached, so a grandparent will be able to hug family members once again.

People can stay overnight if they wish. In England, the rule also applies to single parents with children under 18.

In Scotland, the government is considering the idea, while the Welsh government is reviewing the next steps out of lockdown.

The measure in Northern Ireland was one of a raft of rule changes after Stormont ministers met on Thursday.

It followed mounting pressure from people anxious to see their loved ones and a decline in the number of daily deaths from Covid-19 and the rate of spread of the disease.

The number who can meet outside while practising distancing to limit the risk of transmission was increased from six to 10.

Shops reopening

All non-essential shops and shopping centres were able to reopen yesterday as Northern Ireland became the first part of the UK to make the move.

Many shops in the Republic of Ireland reopened during the week as restrictions eased here.

In Belfast, footfall was still considerably down on pre-pandemic levels yesterday morning, with bad weather likely putting off some people from heading back to the city centre.

Those customers who did venture out were met with a range of new hygiene and social distancing measures, inside and outside outlets.

There were queuing systems in place, screens at tills and several shop workers wore masks.

Shops pulled up their shutters as latest statistics showed the coronavirus death rate in Northern Ireland has fallen for a sixth week in a row.

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There was one more Covid-19 death reported yesterday – only the second reported in the region by the Department of Health this week.

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