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The Duke of York pub in the Cathedral Quarter, Belfast. (File image).
The Duke of York pub in the Cathedral Quarter, Belfast. (File image).
Image: SIPA USA/PA Images

Northern Ireland: Hairdressers to reopen from next Friday, indoor pubs & restaurants from 24 May

The executive has signed off on a plan with three key relaxation dates – 23 April, 30 April and 24 May.
Apr 15th 2021, 7:29 AM 96,655 66

Updated Apr 15th 2021, 7:52 PM

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, 23 April, 30 April and 24 May.

After lengthy discussions today 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 made clear they are now in a position to provide indicative dates.

The Stormont Executive has agreed the following lockdown relaxations in Northern Ireland:

23 April

  • Close contact services, such as hairdressers and barbers, can 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.

30 April

  • 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.

24 May (indicative date)

  • Licensed and unlicensed premises can operate indoors.
  • Rest of tourist accommodation.
  • Domestic gathering indoors.
  • Indoors visitor attractions reopen.
  • Return of indoor group exercise, with numbers limited to suit the size of venue.

Addressing the Executive this evening, First Minister Arlene Foster said: “This is a landmark day for Northern Ireland as we step firmly and with confidence on our pathway to recovery.

“I am pleased and proud that through our collective efforts we have reached a point where we have established a good level of control over the virus.

“We are now entering brighter and better times.

“This balanced package of relaxations will restore those familiar aspects of everyday life that have been missed dearly.

“I urge everyone to stay with us and keep following the health advice so that we can continue with our plans to more fully open up our society over coming weeks.”

Scales

Yesterday, Health Minister Robin Swann said the “scales are tipping” in favour of accelerating the pace of the exit from lockdown.

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.

Calls for inquiry

The chairman of Stormont’s Executive Office Committee Colin McGrath, of the SDLP, has called on the first ministers to commit to holding a public inquiry into Executive decision making during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

“The Executive has been given the space to lift some of the Covid-19 restrictions today thanks to the selfless sacrifices made by those who have stuck with the regulations over four very difficult months,” McGrath said.

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“The immense work of our health service heroes who are looking after the sick and rolling out the vaccination programme has brought us to a much better place than we were in at the end of last year,” he said. 

However, he added: “But for all the progress we’ve made, we need to keep in mind that the virus has not disappeared. I am glad that people will be able to enjoy a little bit more normality but we’re not through the storm just yet.”

McGrath said that “restricting people’s freedoms in the way that the Executive has over the last 12 months demands the highest standards of accountability and scrutiny”.

“That’s why I have asked the First Ministers to commit to calling a Public Inquiry to assess the decision making of Ministers throughout the crisis,” McGrath said. 

“This is the single greatest public health crisis in living memory, it has required the entire machinery of government to respond. We need to be assured that, at all times, Ministers acted appropriately, that people were protected and that the strict rules around public finances were applied.”

- With reporting by Rónán Duffy and Press Association

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