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Stormont ministers announce further lockdown relaxations in NI

Hairdressers are given a July 6 reopening date, church services are set to resume, and advice to those shielding will be paused at the end of July.

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Large queues formed outside Primark in Belfast (Brian Lawless/PA)

Large queues formed outside Primark in Belfast (Brian Lawless/PA)

Large queues formed outside Primark in Belfast (Brian Lawless/PA)

A series of further lockdown relaxations have been announced in Northern Ireland.

Guidance advising people in high-risk categories to shield is to be paused at the end of July.

Hair salons, barbers and nail bars can reopen on July 6, while church services are set to resume on June 29.

Childcare services will be available to all parents at the start of July.

Pupils in key year groups will also return to school on August 24.

Schools can also operate with a one-metre social distancing measure, allowing class sizes to return to almost normal levels.

The powersharing executive has also announced plans that would see the return of full childcare services in September.

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Salon owner Andrew Mulvenna and director Judith McKay make preparations to reopen (Brian Lawless/PA)

Salon owner Andrew Mulvenna and director Judith McKay make preparations to reopen (Brian Lawless/PA)

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Salon owner Andrew Mulvenna and director Judith McKay make preparations to reopen (Brian Lawless/PA)

The moves were agreed by ministers in the powersharing executive during a meeting on Thursday.

Announcing the decision on shielding, Health Minister Robin Swann said: “I have been clear that shielding would not last one minute longer than it needed to.

“We have now reached the point where, if the current trends continue, there will be no need for anyone to shield after July 31.”

There were no further coronavirus-linked deaths in the region on Thursday, leaving the total recorded by the Department of Health  at 543.

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The McKenna family (McKenna family/PA)

The McKenna family (McKenna family/PA)

The McKenna family (McKenna family/PA)

Elizabeth McKenna’s family have been shielding for more than three months in their north Belfast home, to protect her son David, seven who is a kidney transplant recipient.

She was hopeful David could now be reunited with his friends at school come the autumn.

“It’s been tough, it has been hard,” she said.

“We’ve done drama lessons on Zoom, we’ve done singing lessons on Zoom, we’ve done phone calls with friends, but obviously there’s none of that social contact, and that’s where David struggles. He would be quite sociable.”

Hairdresser Andrew Mulvenna, who owns a large salon in Belfast city centre, welcomed the date for reopening.

“Like everybody it’s been a very crazy and emotional few months,” he said.

“Business is not going to be the same, that’s for sure, we’re hoping to just break even over the next six months to 12 months.

“I’d be happy with that, anything more than that is a bonus.”

Earlier, Primark became the latest major retailer to open its doors in Northern Ireland.

Queues formed outside stores in Belfast and Londonderry as shoppers arrived well before opening time to secure a place in the line.

In Belfast, the shop opened its doors at 8.20am, an hour and 40 minutes ahead of schedule, to help manage the queue.

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Primark staff in the Belfast city centre store (Brian Lawless/PA)

Primark staff in the Belfast city centre store (Brian Lawless/PA)

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Primark staff in the Belfast city centre store (Brian Lawless/PA)

On Monday, the executive announced that pubs, restaurants and hotels can reopen at the start of July.

From June 26, caravan parks, campsites and self-contained tourist accommodation will be able to reopen.

A week later on July 3, hotels, restaurants, cafes, coffee shops, pubs and bars will be able to welcome customers back.

Indoor pubs and bars opening on that date will have to primarily function as restaurants and offer substantial meals with table service.

The food prerequisite does not apply to alcohol being served outside in beer gardens, though table service is again compulsory.

Museums and galleries can also reopen on July 3, but hotel leisure and spa facilities will have to remain closed.

PA