James Ward, PA
The reopening of scores of close-contact services in the North after a four-month lockdown has been hailed as a “good day” by the Economy Minister.
Outdoor visitor attractions, hairdressers and beauty salons are trading again, while driving lessons are resuming, along with theory and practical tests.
Competitive sport can take place outdoors with numbers not exceeding 100, but spectators will not be allowed.
The North's Economy Minister Diane Dodds said it is a “good day, and an even better day for the economy”.
Mrs Dodds was speaking to the media during a visit to the Natural Hair Company salon in Lisburn, Co Antrim.
The cycle of lockdowns has been really, really devastating.
“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 24th, 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.