The Executive's decision to allow gardening and recycling centres to reopen from Monday is a welcome first step on its pathway to easing lockdown restrictions. There is scarcely a household that will not find some benefit from these tentative moves.
ith most people shopping online even for essential foodstuffs the amount of packaging piling up has been difficult to keep on top of. As well many people have been taking the opportunity to get involved in DIY projects, again creating waste which has been building following the closure of the recycling centres.
But the big bonus is the opening of garden centres. Supermarkets have been supplying a limited range of plants and shrubs, but the garden centres have much more to offer and have ensured that plants are ready to provide a glorious vista in even the most modest plot.
Customers, young and old, will welcome the opportunity to get back out into their gardens, providing an interest which can take up part of each day and also boosting their mental wellbeing after being virtually locked up for almost two months.
Of course it is a major bonus to the owners of garden centres who faced the prospect of seeing a year's work and expenditure literally wither before their eyes.
The opening of the centres will also give the medical and scientific experts an opportunity to see the effect of even a modest easing of lockdown. The euphoria of seeing some facilities opening again should not blind the public to the need to continue to observe the basics of lockdown, especially social distancing and hand hygiene.
If the businesses can provide a service which keeps both customers and staff safe and also does not lead to a spike in infections, then the Executive will feel more confident in introducing greater relaxation of the rules.
The decision to allow marriage ceremonies for people who are terminally ill was a moving act of compassion on behalf of the Executive. Such ceremonies may be small in number, but they will have an immeasurable impact on the couples involved.
The expectation is that further steps towards a new normal will follow soon but that depends on the behaviour of the public in keeping infection rates down. It is encouraging that the Executive is committed to transparency on the way forward and will explain why decisions are taken. We are still all in this together.