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Garden centres to reopen as N Ireland announces ‘baby steps’ out of lockdown

Recycling centres will also reopen on Monday, and marriage ceremonies involving someone with a terminal illness can also take place from next week.

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Shop assistant Naomi Ferguson holding two potted plants while wearing a face guard at Hillmount Garden Centres (PA)

Shop assistant Naomi Ferguson holding two potted plants while wearing a face guard at Hillmount Garden Centres (PA)

Shop assistant Naomi Ferguson holding two potted plants while wearing a face guard at Hillmount Garden Centres (PA)

Stormont’s leaders have announced some minor relaxations of Northern Ireland’s coronavirus lockdown measures.

Garden centres and household recycling centres will be able to reopen on Monday.

Marriage ceremonies involving someone who is suffering from a terminal illness will also be allowed from next week.

Late on Thursday night, Stormont’s Minister for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Edwin Poots announced that angling would also be permitted from Monday.

The moves came after a meeting of the powersharing executive on Thursday.

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(PA Graphics)

(PA Graphics)

Press Association Images

(PA Graphics)

First Minister Arlene Foster, who revealed Northern Ireland’s infection rate (R rate) had dropped to below 0.7, said the announcement represented “very tentative first steps toward recovery”.

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The R rate is the number of people an infected person passes the disease to.

“It is important that everyone understands that the process of relaxing restrictions will be incremental and there won’t be a dramatic shift in relation to the lifting of restrictions,” said Mrs Foster.

Deaths among those who have tested positive for coronavirus rose to 454 in the region on Thursday, after a further five fatalities were announced.

Northern Ireland’s lockdown exit plan sets out a five-step process, but does not assign projected dates for any of the stages.

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said the executive would “move towards step one” of the exit plan on Monday when further relaxations would be announced.

She described Thursday’s announcements as “baby steps”.

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Michelle O’Neill said the region would have to take baby steps out of lockdown (Kelvin Boyes/PA)

Michelle O’Neill said the region would have to take baby steps out of lockdown (Kelvin Boyes/PA)

PA

Michelle O’Neill said the region would have to take baby steps out of lockdown (Kelvin Boyes/PA)

The ministers also committed to publish their decision-making matrix each day going forward, to give the public sight of what factors were influencing moves around restrictions.

“We must remember that the regulations are in place to save lives and the executive does not take decisions on whether to maintain or indeed to relax the restrictions lightly,” said Ms O‘Neill.

“Every decision is carefully judged based on an evaluation of risks and potential benefits. Our ability to recover from coronavirus will be a partnership and the partnership effort involves every single member of society.

“And, as our partners in that recovery plan, it is right that we’re open and honest with the public about how we make our assessments and how we arrive at those most important decisions on your behalf.

“So we have agreed to publish the decision making matrix that we use to inform those judgments.”

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Edwin Poots said angling could resume on Monday (Liam McBurney/PA)

Edwin Poots said angling could resume on Monday (Liam McBurney/PA)

PA

Edwin Poots said angling could resume on Monday (Liam McBurney/PA)

Later, Mr Poots said solitary anglers or groups from the same family unit could use his department’s facilities to fish from the start of next week.

He told BBC NI’s The View that the Health Department had recommended to ministers on Thursday that others steps in phase one of the exit plan, such as golf and meetings outdoors of four to six people not from the same household, could now happen safely.

He said the executive would make a final decision on those measures on Monday.

Mr Poots said decisions on those steps had not been taken on Thursday because some parties wanted further time to consider them over the weekend. He said it was important that all decisions taken were unanimous.

“That’s the way we want it, we want the executive to move forward in harmony, in an agreed way, we don’t want people dropping off,” he said.

“We want to ensure that we maintain that harmony and that’s something we will work very hard to do and ensure we can bring everybody together.”

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