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Coronavirus: Ignore advice and risk new lockdown, experts warn after rules eased further in NI

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Two-time world champion Brian Magee prepares his gym in west Belfast for reopening

Two-time world champion Brian Magee prepares his gym in west Belfast for reopening

Nick Beattie, personal trainer and owner of Flex Gym NI, works with Emma Dougherty and Jemma Cowan to clean and prepare the Belfast gym

Nick Beattie, personal trainer and owner of Flex Gym NI, works with Emma Dougherty and Jemma Cowan to clean and prepare the Belfast gym

Owen McGonigle from Pure Gym in Belfast city centre

Owen McGonigle from Pure Gym in Belfast city centre

Photopress

Travellers arrive at Belfast International Airport yesterday

Travellers arrive at Belfast International Airport yesterday

Two-time world champion Brian Magee prepares his gym in west Belfast for reopening

More relaxations to coronavirus restrictions in Northern Ireland have been announced ­- but with warnings that the region could face a second lockdown if people ignore the rules.

From today indoor fitness studios and gyms, bingo halls and amusement arcades, outdoor leisure playgrounds, courts and gyms and cinemas can reopen.

Outdoor horse racing and equestrian competitions, as well as outdoor competitive games and sporting events, can resume from tomorrow.

However, no spectators will be allowed.

Following a meeting of the Executive yesterday it was also announced indoor sports facilities can reopen from July 17.

On the same date libraries, skating rinks and leisure centres can also welcome the public, although indoor swimming pools will remain closed.

Those seeking a summer holiday abroad can now travel to 'green' or 'amber' categorised countries such as France and Spain and not have to quarantine on their return home.

The end of the quarantine requirements also applies to those arriving here from low to medium risk countries.

First Minister Arlene Foster explained the move would bring Northern Ireland into line with England and Wales, which had unveiled similar measures.

"We will keep looking at all of those (overseas) countries on an ongoing basis to make sure that they don't move from amber to red," she said.

Mrs Foster told media in Co Fermanagh she hoped the regulations to facilitate this change will be laid out last night and will apply from today.

Belfast International Airport boss Graham Keddie said it would help to "bring clarity to the uncertainty of the last week or so".

Cinema chain Movie House will reopen its outlets at Cityside (Belfast), Glengormley, Maghera and Coleraine on July 14 with extra safety measures, such as socially distanced seating plans in place.

"We are delighted to welcome back our customers and look forward to bringing them great film entertainment again," said Movie House managing director Michael McAdam.

The relaxations come as Northern Ireland recorded its sixth consecutive day yesterday when there had been no deaths from Covid-19, according to Department of Health figures.

A total of 554 people have died with the virus to date.

Another three positive cases have been noted since Wednesday, bringing the total confirmed cases here to 5,768.

The department also announced that the current estimate of the R-rate - the rate at which one person goes on to transmit the virus to others - is between 0.5 and 1.

Chief Medical Officer Dr Michael McBride and Chief Scientific Officer Professor Ian Young have warned that the public must remain vigilant to ensure the R-rate remains as low as possible.

In a joint statement issued yesterday the experts said that any flouting of the remaining lockdown restrictions could lead to us experiencing a second lockdown, similar to those in Sydney and Leicester.

Recently there was panic in the Co Down village of Crossgar, which led to local businesses closing and deserted streets after reports of a Covid-19 outbreak in the area. Some residents, however, have dismissed it as nothing but a rumour.

Noting the public may be growing tired of the rhetoric, the experts insisted the advice has "already saved many lives".

"And it is just as relevant today as when it was first issued, if not more so. That means vigilance is essential and complacency is a deadly enemy," Dr McBride and Professor Young added.

A further six deaths were reported in the Republic amid further warnings that there is an "immediate need to take care and caution", as the reproductive rate there now stands at or above 1.

In yesterday's briefing, chair of the NPHET Epidemiological Modelling Advisory Group Professor Philip Nolan said more cases were being detected in younger people and 15-20% of cases were related to travel.

Belfast Telegraph