Northern Ireland takes a stride out of lockdown

Coronavirus restrictions eased
Coronavirus restrictions eased (PA Wire)
18:00pm, Fri 23 Apr 2021
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Northern Ireland has taken a stride out of lockdown after a series of businesses resumed trading for the first time in four months.

Close-contact services, including hairdressers and beauty parlours, reopened while driving lessons also restarted, along with theory and practical tests.

Outdoor attractions welcomed back visitors while competitive sport resumed outdoors, with numbers limited to 100, but with no spectators allowed.

Economy Minister Diane Dodds said it was a good day for the economy after months of hardship.

It's the start of a road back to rebuilding and recovering our economy and a bit of normality

Martine Broggy, the owner of Natural Hair Company salon in Lisburn, expressed hope the most recent lockdown would be the last.

“I just feel we’re on the turn now,” she said.

“I haven’t felt that before and the previous times I haven’t felt like that. But I do feel we’re on the turn now and hopefully that this will be us.”

Alan Hutchinson of Abba Driving School had a good start to the day with one of his students passing her test on her first attempt.

Her test had been rescheduled seven times due to the pandemic and coronavirus regulations.

Coronavirus – Fri Apr 23, 2021 (PA Wire)

Mr Hutchinson said the task now was to work through the backlog created by months of lockdown.

“There is a lot of frustration out there, trying to get the test dates in and get going again,” he said.

“There are a lot of pupils scrambling around trying to get a test date, hoping it will stick, that we won’t go into lockdown again.”

Mrs Dodds said it was a “good day, and an even better day for the economy”.

“It’s the start of a road back to rebuilding and recovering our economy and a bit of normality,” she said.

“It has been an absolutely torrid year, particularly for our retail, for these close-contact services. The cycle of lockdowns has been really, really devastating.

“We want to see the economy reopen safely, we want to see it reopen sustainably, and we want to move forward.

“Next week is another momentous week, and we will reopen all of retail, reopen hospitality outdoors and reopen self-contained accommodation. It’s a really big step forward.”

On Thursday, First Minister Arlene Foster said the exit from lockdown will move faster if possible.

She said the Executive will “keep looking to see if we can move faster”.

Further restrictions are to be lifted next week, when pubs and restaurants can serve customers in outdoor settings, in groups of six, from no more than two households.

All non-essential retail will return, and takeaways and off-licences will have curfews lifted.

Self-contained tourist accommodation, such as caravans and rented holiday homes, will be allowed to operate.

Gyms and swimming pools will reopen for individual activities.

The limit on outdoor gatherings in domestic gardens will increase to 15 people from no more than three households.

More restrictions are set to be lifted on May 24, although these are subject to review.

From that date, pubs and restaurants can operate indoors, people will be allowed to gather in homes, and indoor attractions can reopen.

Other tourist accommodation such as hotels and B&Bs can also reopen.

Wedding receptions and post-burial events can take place in indoor hospitality venues, after appropriate risk assessments are undertaken.

There was one further death of a patient who previously tested positive for Covid-19 in Northern Ireland announced on Friday, along with another 88 confirmed cases of the virus.

On Friday morning, there were 64 confirmed Covid-19 inpatients in hospital, seven of whom were in ICU.

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