Click-and-collect services reopen as restrictions ease in Northern Ireland

All students have returned to schools, outdoors sports training restarts and outdoor retail and click-and-collect services resume.
Click-and-collect services reopen as restrictions ease in Northern Ireland

By James Ward, PA

The North has taken some gradual steps out of lockdown as the Deputy First Minister said progress in tacking Covid-19 has created enough headroom to allow for further relaxations.

Michelle O'Neill said she was confident the powersharing executive could agree a timetable for the reopening of more sections of society at a meeting on Thursday.

First Minister Arlene Foster has already expressed hope that opening dates for close-contact services, such as hairdressers and beauticians, and non-essential retail can be announced later this week.

The remainder of post-primary students, years eight to 11, returned to schools on Monday after all other classes resumed before the Easter break.

The number of people who can meet outdoors in a garden, including children, has increased from six to 10.

The “stay at home” messaging has been replaced with a “stay local” and “work from home” message.

Outdoor retail such as car dealerships and garden centres can reopen and click-and-collect services have resumed.

Outdoor sports training is allowed for recognised clubs, in groups of up to 15, provided all indoor facilities except toilets remain closed.

People planning to get married or enter a civil partnership will be permitted to view potential venues for ceremonies at a limit of up to four people.

The number of people allowed to attend such ceremonies will also increase, at a level informed by a risk assessment for the venue.

Further easing

At the weekend, Northern Ireland reached the milestone of one million vaccine jabs having been given.

On the prospect of further announcements on Thursday, Ms O’Neill told BBC Radio Ulster: “I wouldn’t want to pre-empt the Executive decisions on Thursday, but I think it’s fair to say that we’re increasingly confident in our ability to be able to make more progress.

“We have, over the weekend obviously, reached the one million vaccine mark, which was obviously very encouraging and gives us great hope that we’re making our way out of this pandemic.

“I think today is a good step forward in terms of our young people being back into our schools and a number of other areas obviously opening up.

“So I’m hopeful that by Thursday we’ll be able to announce dates for other things being able to open up because, for a combination of reasons, the factors look good where we have the headroom on which to be able to move.

“The vaccination programme being very strong, our ICU numbers coming down, the number of positive cases coming down – that all leads to a very encouraging situation, so I’d be hopeful that, with Executive colleagues’ agreement, we’ll be able to announce dates.”

Ms Foster reiterated her hope that dates can be provided on Thursday.

“I very much hope that we can give an indicative timeframe on Thursday because I think there are lots of people for business reasons, for wellbeing reasons, they want to see that timetable and I hope that we can do that on Thursday,” she told BBC Radio Ulster.

There was one further death linked to Covid-19 in Northern Ireland on Sunday and an additional 89 positive cases, the region's Department of Health said.

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