// Non-essential retail in Northern Ireland reopens as the country exits lockdown today
// Northern Ireland had been in a two-week circuit breaker lockdown
// The 3-week lockdown in 11 council areas across Scotland also ends today
Shoppers are being urged to adhere to government guidance as non-essential retail reopens across Northern Ireland and 11 council areas in Scotland.
Non-essential shops across Northern Ireland have reopened their doors following a two-week circuit-breaker, while the 11 council areas in Scotland – including Glasgow – had been placed in the highest level of restrictions for three weeks.
In Northern Ireland, cinemas, museums, galleries, gyms, cafes and restaurants have also reopened, but with restaurants in place, and pubs that do not serve food will remain closed.
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- Green light for Northern Ireland non-essential retailers to reopen December 11
- Shopper footfall down despite images of post-lockdown crowds
Northern Ireland’s leaders defended the decision to relax restrictions at a time when daily death and Covid-19 infection numbers remain high.
The leaders of the powersharing administration justified today’s reopenings as health minister Robin Swann warned that a “festive free-for-all” would be “catastrophic” for the region’s under-pressure hospital system.
First Minister Arlene Foster said the fact the reproduction rate of the virus (R) had dropped to “around 1” had given the Executive the “headroom” to proceed with the reopenings.
Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said the decision to lift some of the restrictions reflected the need to balance public health and economic concerns.
Foster urged the public to “exercise personal responsibility” and “make good choices” while O’Neill called for people not to be “reckless”.
Over in Scotland, the 11 council areas that were in lockdown will now move down to a Level 3 restrictions.
This means that non-essential retailers in those areas were allowed to reopen as of 6am this morning.
However, all other lockdown restrictions being eased won’t come into effect until 6pm today.
Hospitality businesses in Level 3 areas must close their doors by 6pm, so this means they will have to wait until tomorrow to welcome back customers for food and non-alcoholic drinks.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon confirmed to MSPs in the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday that no area of Scotland will remain in Level 4 lockdown when changes come into force today.
Five other council areas in Scotland will have restrictions eased, the First Minister said.
Inverclyde, Falkirk and Angus will move from Level 3 to Level 2, while Dumfries and Galloway and the Borders will move to Level 1.
All other council areas, including Edinburgh, will remain in their current levels.
with PA Wires