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Lockdown lifting: Your key questions answered

The Executive announced the widest lifting of coronavirus restrictions in months on Thursday, with a sense of normality set to return to Northern Ireland in the coming weeks.

The region has been in a harsh lockdown since Boxing Day last year, but with cases and deaths falling, the pressure on the healthcare system eased and the successful rollout of the vaccination programme, ministers feel the time is right to lift restrictions in key areas.

While a variety of measures will lift on April 23 and 30, the Executive has also offered indicative dates for other restrictions remaining in place.

The initial focus is on allowing people to take part in activities outdoors, with many restrictions lifting on indoor gatherings next month.

The Executive had initially wanted to postpone the reopening of the hospitality sector until May, but the date was moved back after an intervention from Economy Minister Diane Dodds.

First Minister Arlene Foster said it was a "landmark day" for Northern Ireland on its route to post-pandemic recovery, while deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill said "the light at the end of the tunnel has just got a little bit brighter".

Here is everything you need to know:

When will hairdressers and beauty salons reopen?

Hairdressers, barbers and beauty salons are set to reopen their doors alongside other close contact services like tattooists on April 23.

Driving lessons and theory and practical tests can also resume on this date.

What about retail and hospitality?

From April 30 all non-essential retail will be allowed to reopen, including shopping centres. Restaurants, cafes and bars will also be allowed to welcome customers outdoors from this date. Groups will be limited to no more than six people from two households and contact details will be taken from customers.

A curfew on sales at takeaways and off licenses will also be lifted.

The Executive has given an indicative date of May 24 for bars and restaurants to be allowed to serve customers indoors.

When will staycations be allowed?

Self-contained tourist accommodation, such as caravans and rented holiday homes, can operate for one household from April 30 with the rest of the sector following, virus permitting, on May 24.

Outdoor visitor attractions will be allowed to reopen from April 23, with tourist sites opening indoors from May 24.

Will competitive sports resume?

From April 23 outdoor competitive sport will be allowed to resume with the number of people taking part not exceeding 100. Outdoor sport will also be extended to include squad training.

No date has been set for the return of spectators to sporting events.

Equine assisted learning and therapy can also take place outdoors and indoors from April 23, limited to 30 people.

Gyms, swimming pools and other large venues are set to reopen their doors for training from April 30, with personal training allowed as long as social distancing is observed.

However, indoor group exercise will not be allowed until May 24, with numbers limited depending on the size of venue.

What about outdoor and indoor gatherings?

The limit on outdoor gatherings in domestic gardens will be increased to 15 people from no more than three households from April 30.

Virus allowing, people will be allowed to visit each other's houses from May 24.

How many people will be allowed to attend weddings and funerals?

The Executive has agreed that from May 24 wedding receptions and post funeral gatherings will be allowed to take place in indoor venues.

Anything else I need to know?

From April 23 band practices and rehearsals will be permitted to take place in agreed outdoor locations.




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