// Non-essential retail in Northern Ireland may finally be able to reopen on April 30
// Close contact services, hairdressers and beauty salons to reopen on April 23
// Outdoor hospitality in groups of 6 can resume May 10
The reopening of non-essential retail and other high street businesses and services are among relaxations set to be agreed by Northern Ireland’s governing body this afternoon.
A special sitting at the Assembly that was slated for 3pm was pushed back to 4.15pm today as Stormont ministers continued to deliberate over a timetable for lifting lockdown restrictions.
A plan presented to ministers earlier today would have allowed close contact services, hairdressers and beauty salons to reopen on April 23, while all other non-essential retailers could reopen April 30.
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On May 10, licensed and unlicensed premises can serve customers in outdoor settings in groups of six from no more than two householders, gyms can reopen, and curfews on takeaways and off-licences would be removed.
However, the resumption of indoor trading at pubs, cafes and restaurants, and the full reopening of hotels, is not intended to happen until June 1 at the earliest.
When Stormont’s lockdown exit strategy was first published at the start of March, the administration faced criticism for not including any indicative reopening dates.
At the time, ministers said Northern Ireland’s lockdown exit plan would be driven by data and that the health picture was too volatile to offer provisional dates that ultimately might have to be scrapped.
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.
There is the potential for some of the dates to be moved as a consequence of the deliberations taking place at the time of writing, but the substantive outline of the plan is expected to be signed off as proposed.
So far the only retail-related lockdown relaxations that have into effect in Northern Ireland include click-and-collect for non-essential retail being allowed again and the reopening of outdoor-focused retail outlets, such as garden centres and car dealerships.
Up until today Northern Ireland was the only home country to not have any indicative dates of when shops could reopen.
Shoppers have already started flocking to high streets across England and Wales after lockdown on non-essential was eased earlier this week, while Scotland’s lockdown exit is slated for April 26.
with PA Wires