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Executive to discuss easing lockdown as Economy Minister signals further retail reopening

  • All goods retailers can reopen from Friday, except those located in indoor shopping centres
  • No Covid-19 deaths for second day in a row
  • NI death toll stands at 537

The Executive will discuss further easing of lockdown measures in Northern Ireland on Thursday, First Minister Arlene Foster has said.

Mrs Foster was speaking after Economy Minister Diane Dodds announced all non-essential goods retailers can reopen from Friday.

Speaking at the Executive's daily Covid-19 press conference, the DUP leader said the pandemic has had a "devastating impact" on Northern Ireland's economy and action to help it recover will be "gradual and in stages".

She added that said there would be discussion on Thursday around lifting other restrictions in phase two of the Executive's recovery plan.

"We are all very mindful in the Executive of the desire of families and friends to meet, we will consider that later in the week on Thursday as well," she said, adding that ministers have asked officials for guidance on the "bubble concept".

The bubble concept would see people from two or three different households allowed to meet indoors.

Mrs Foster also announced a working group involving churches and other faith groups will be established to discuss how to achieve the gradual reopening of places of worship.

She said services such as hairdressers and barbers will be "considered in subsequent stages of our Covid response".

Speaking during a visit to the Debenhams store in Belfast city centre on Monday, Diane Dodds confirmed that retailers could open from June 12, providing they follow social distancing and public health advice.

The decision was approved at an Executive meeting on Monday, but will not include retailers inside shopping centres.

"It was agreed that as long as retailers can adhere to the necessary safety measures, and there is no increase in the spread of the virus by Thursday, then these shops can re-open," the Economy Minister said.

“The pandemic has had a devastating impact on the local economy. The recovery has already begun and it is time now for the pace to accelerate. The re-opening of all goods retail outlets will be a huge part of this.

“This is a major step forward today but there is more work to do and I will continue to work to progress the recovery.”

The announcement comes after the Department of Health confirmed there have been no Covid-19 deaths in Northern Ireland for the second day in a row.

It's the third time there have been no recorded deaths in a 24 hour period since Northern Ireland's first case of Covid-19 in March.

The Northern Ireland death toll stands at 537 people.

Check out our live blog below to see how Monday's developments unfolded.

Belfast Telegraph