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'Find other ways to protest' - Executive makes appeal to public after mass gathering at Belfast City Hall

"Find other ways to protest" was the message from the First and deputy First Minister to the Black Lives Matter protesters who crowded outside Belfast City Hall on Wednesday in breach of the Covid-19 lockdown restrictions.

Mass gatherings are a breach of Regulation 6,” First Minister Arlene Foster told Thursday's Stormont Covid-19 press conference. “If you want a peaceful protest, there are ways to facilitate that.”

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First Minister Arlene Foster during the daily media broadcast in the Long Gallery at Parliament Buildings, Stormont on Thursday. Photo by Kelvin Boyes/Press Eye

First Minister Arlene Foster during the daily media broadcast in the Long Gallery at Parliament Buildings, Stormont on Thursday. Photo by Kelvin Boyes/Press Eye

Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press E

First Minister Arlene Foster during the daily media broadcast in the Long Gallery at Parliament Buildings, Stormont on Thursday. Photo by Kelvin Boyes/Press Eye

“Many have cancelled mass gatherings, such as the Twelfth of July for very good reasons," she said.

“People have been denied the opportunity to attend the funerals of their family, friends and relatives.

“Mass gatherings, such as we saw yesterday, are dangerous, however laudable the cause may be."

But she emphasised: “Mass gatherings are a breach of the law. From now on the police will be watching very carefully.”

Michelle O’Neill said she understood and sympathised with the popular anger about the death in Minneapolis of George Floyd, but she too was unequivocal: “By gathering in large crowds, you are spreading the virus. Find other ways to protest.”

Both ministers made the point that many other gatherings had had to be cancelled because of the Covid-19 emergency - sports, funerals, and the Twelfth of July celebrations.

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A protest over the death of George Floyd is held at City Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland on June 3rd 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

A protest over the death of George Floyd is held at City Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland on June 3rd 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

A protest over the death of George Floyd is held at City Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland on June 3rd 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

A protest over the death of George Floyd is held at City Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland on June 3rd 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

A protest over the death of George Floyd is held at City Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland on June 3rd 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

A protest over the death of George Floyd is held at City Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland on June 3rd 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

A protest over the death of George Floyd is held at City Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland on June 3rd 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

A protest over the death of George Floyd is held at City Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland on June 3rd 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

A protest over the death of George Floyd is held at City Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland on June 3rd 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

A protest over the death of George Floyd is held at City Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland on June 3rd 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

A protest over the death of George Floyd is held at City Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland on June 3rd 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

A protest over the death of George Floyd is held at City Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland on June 3rd 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Layla with a sign around her neck as a protest over the death of George Floyd is held at City Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland on June 3rd 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Layla with a sign around her neck as a protest over the death of George Floyd is held at City Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland on June 3rd 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Layla with a sign around her neck as a protest over the death of George Floyd is held at City Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland on June 3rd 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Layla with a sign around her neck as a protest over the death of George Floyd is held at City Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland on June 3rd 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

A protest over the death of George Floyd is held at City Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland on June 3rd 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

A protest over the death of George Floyd is held at City Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland on June 3rd 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Tamara O'Neill (2) as a protest over the death of George Floyd is held at City Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland on June 3rd 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Tamara O'Neill (2) as a protest over the death of George Floyd is held at City Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland on June 3rd 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Tamara O'Neill (2) as a protest over the death of George Floyd is held at City Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland on June 3rd 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Tamara O'Neill (2) as a protest over the death of George Floyd is held at City Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland on June 3rd 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Tamara O'Neill (2) as a protest over the death of George Floyd is held at City Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland on June 3rd 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Tamara O'Neill (2) as a protest over the death of George Floyd is held at City Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland on June 3rd 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Jolene Francis as a protest over the death of George Floyd is held at City Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland on June 3rd 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Jolene Francis as a protest over the death of George Floyd is held at City Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland on June 3rd 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

 Laura O'Neill (35), daughters Shannon (20) with the bow, Courtney (20) with blonde hair, Africa (13), Mason (9) and Tamara (2) as a protest over the death of George Floyd is held at City Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland on June 3rd 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Laura O'Neill (35), daughters Shannon (20) with the bow, Courtney (20) with blonde hair, Africa (13), Mason (9) and Tamara (2) as a protest over the death of George Floyd is held at City Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland on June 3rd 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Jolene Francis as a protest over the death of George Floyd is held at City Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland on June 3rd 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Jolene Francis as a protest over the death of George Floyd is held at City Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland on June 3rd 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

 Laura O'Neill (35), daughters Shannon (20) with the bow, Courtney (20) with blonde hair, Africa (13), Mason (9) and Tamara (2) as a protest over the death of George Floyd is held at City Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland on June 3rd 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Laura O'Neill (35), daughters Shannon (20) with the bow, Courtney (20) with blonde hair, Africa (13), Mason (9) and Tamara (2) as a protest over the death of George Floyd is held at City Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland on June 3rd 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

A protest over the death of George Floyd is held at City Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland on June 3rd 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

A protest over the death of George Floyd is held at City Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland on June 3rd 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

A protest over the death of George Floyd is held at City Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland on June 3rd 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

A protest over the death of George Floyd is held at City Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland on June 3rd 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

A protest over the death of George Floyd is held at City Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland on June 3rd 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

A protest over the death of George Floyd is held at City Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland on June 3rd 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

A protest over the death of George Floyd is held at City Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland on June 3rd 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

A protest over the death of George Floyd is held at City Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland on June 3rd 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Cuthbert Tura Arutura as a protest over the death of George Floyd is held at City Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland on June 3rd 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Cuthbert Tura Arutura as a protest over the death of George Floyd is held at City Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland on June 3rd 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

A protest over the death of George Floyd is held at City Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland on June 3rd 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

A protest over the death of George Floyd is held at City Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland on June 3rd 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Cuthbert Tura Arutura as a protest over the death of George Floyd is held at City Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland on June 3rd 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Cuthbert Tura Arutura as a protest over the death of George Floyd is held at City Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland on June 3rd 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

A protest over the death of George Floyd is held at City Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland on June 3rd 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

A protest over the death of George Floyd is held at City Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland on June 3rd 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Cuthbert Tura Arutura as a protest over the death of George Floyd is held at City Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland on June 3rd 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Cuthbert Tura Arutura as a protest over the death of George Floyd is held at City Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland on June 3rd 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

A protest over the death of George Floyd is held at City Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland on June 3rd 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

A protest over the death of George Floyd is held at City Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland on June 3rd 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Cuthbert Tura Arutura as a protest over the death of George Floyd is held at City Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland on June 3rd 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Cuthbert Tura Arutura as a protest over the death of George Floyd is held at City Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland on June 3rd 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

A protest over the death of George Floyd is held at City Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland on June 3rd 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

A protest over the death of George Floyd is held at City Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland on June 3rd 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

A protest over the death of George Floyd is held at City Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland on June 3rd 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

A protest over the death of George Floyd is held at City Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland on June 3rd 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

A protest over the death of George Floyd is held at City Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland on June 3rd 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

A protest over the death of George Floyd is held at City Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland on June 3rd 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

A protest over the death of George Floyd is held at City Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland on June 3rd 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

A protest over the death of George Floyd is held at City Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland on June 3rd 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Shade Fairley and Angel Arutura as a protest over the death of George Floyd is held at City Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland on June 3rd 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Shade Fairley and Angel Arutura as a protest over the death of George Floyd is held at City Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland on June 3rd 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

A protest over the death of George Floyd is held at City Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland on June 3rd 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

A protest over the death of George Floyd is held at City Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland on June 3rd 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Shade Fairley and Angel Arutura as a protest over the death of George Floyd is held at City Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland on June 3rd 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Shade Fairley and Angel Arutura as a protest over the death of George Floyd is held at City Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland on June 3rd 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Shade Fairley and Angel Arutura as a protest over the death of George Floyd is held at City Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland on June 3rd 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Shade Fairley and Angel Arutura as a protest over the death of George Floyd is held at City Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland on June 3rd 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

A protest over the death of George Floyd is held at City Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland on June 3rd 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

A protest over the death of George Floyd is held at City Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland on June 3rd 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Shade Fairley and Angel Arutura as a protest over the death of George Floyd is held at City Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland on June 3rd 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Shade Fairley and Angel Arutura as a protest over the death of George Floyd is held at City Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland on June 3rd 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Angel Arutura as a protest over the death of George Floyd is held at City Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland on June 3rd 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Angel Arutura as a protest over the death of George Floyd is held at City Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland on June 3rd 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Angel Arutura as a protest over the death of George Floyd is held at City Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland on June 3rd 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Angel Arutura as a protest over the death of George Floyd is held at City Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland on June 3rd 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

A protest over the death of George Floyd is held at City Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland on June 3rd 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

A protest over the death of George Floyd is held at City Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland on June 3rd 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

 Angel Arutura as a protest over the death of George Floyd is held at City Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland on June 3rd 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Angel Arutura as a protest over the death of George Floyd is held at City Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland on June 3rd 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

A protest over the death of George Floyd is held at City Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland on June 3rd 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

A protest over the death of George Floyd is held at City Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland on June 3rd 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Layla with a sign around her neck as a protest over the death of George Floyd is held at City Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland on June 3rd 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Layla with a sign around her neck as a protest over the death of George Floyd is held at City Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland on June 3rd 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

 Angel Arutura as a protest over the death of George Floyd is held at City Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland on June 3rd 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Angel Arutura as a protest over the death of George Floyd is held at City Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland on June 3rd 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Shade Fairley  as a protest over the death of George Floyd is held at City Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland on June 3rd 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Shade Fairley as a protest over the death of George Floyd is held at City Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland on June 3rd 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Shade Fairley and Angel Arutura as a protest over the death of George Floyd is held at City Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland on June 3rd 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Shade Fairley and Angel Arutura as a protest over the death of George Floyd is held at City Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland on June 3rd 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Angel Arutura as a protest over the death of George Floyd is held at City Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland on June 3rd 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Angel Arutura as a protest over the death of George Floyd is held at City Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland on June 3rd 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Angel Arutura as a protest over the death of George Floyd is held at City Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland on June 3rd 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Angel Arutura as a protest over the death of George Floyd is held at City Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland on June 3rd 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

A protest over the death of George Floyd is held at City Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland on June 3rd 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

A protest over the death of George Floyd is held at City Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland on June 3rd 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

A protest over the death of George Floyd is held at City Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland on June 3rd 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

They were joined at the briefing by Health Minister Robin Swann, who also called on protesters to find other ways to express their concerns. “No matter how just your cause, it should not threaten other people’s lives" he said.

The briefing also heard that from Monday 8 June, people travelling into Northern Ireland from outside the Common Travel area of the UK and Ireland would be expected to self-isolate for 14 days, or risk a fine of up to £1000.

These self-isolation rules would also apply to people who flew into Dublin with the intention of then travelling onward to Northern Ireland.

Minister Swann said his department had had extensive consultation with counterparts in the Republic of Ireland on information-sharing to enable this to happen.

Vulnerable people who have been shielding for the past 10 weeks can also begin to meet members of their families outdoors, the press briefing heard

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Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill during the daily media broadcast in the Long Gallery at Parliament Buildings, Stormont on Thursday. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill during the daily media broadcast in the Long Gallery at Parliament Buildings, Stormont on Thursday. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press E

Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill during the daily media broadcast in the Long Gallery at Parliament Buildings, Stormont on Thursday. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

However, Ms O’Neill said meeting family members indoors remains under consideration - but the Executive does not yet think it safe to do so.

"As quickly as we can get there, we will get there and we'll be delighted the day that we can stand on this platform and we can actually tell people that they can meet their family indoors," she said.

"Unfortunately, the risk is still too great, the virus-spread indoors is still too great, so we have to be cautious.

"We ask people to bear with us as we keep trying to work our way through this, we are still in the pandemic and we have to work our way through this cautiously."

The Ministers also confirmed that some lockdown restrictions which had already been announced would be eased from June 8, including attending the welfare needs of their pets or non-farm animals, outdoor marriages or civil partnership ceremonies, outdoor sports facilities could open, outdoor retailers would be permitted to trade, e.g car traders and agricultural machinery suppliers.

Additional guidance for hoteliers - who have been given a target reopening date of 20 July in order to allow them to make plans and adapt their premises for social distancing - is currently in preparation.

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Health Minister Robin Swann during the daily media broadcast in the Long Gallery at Parliament Buildings, Stormont on Thursday. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

Health Minister Robin Swann during the daily media broadcast in the Long Gallery at Parliament Buildings, Stormont on Thursday. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press E

Health Minister Robin Swann during the daily media broadcast in the Long Gallery at Parliament Buildings, Stormont on Thursday. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

Mr Swann said easing these restrictions was "another step towards the freedom we once took for granted,” and called on the public to stay vigilant in the fight against the virus.

“This is a marathon, not a sprint - and there’s still a long way to go,” he said.

Belfast Telegraph