Indoor hospitality in pubs, cafes and restaurants across Northern Ireland resumes today, in the latest phase of lifting Covid-19 restrictions there.
This represents a significant easing of public health restrictions imposed during the pandemic.
Today, six people from an unlimited number of households can sit together in pubs, cafes and restaurants. This number does not include children.
Public health mitigation measures mean it will be table service only, with contact tracing measures and social distancing of at least one meter.
The reopening of hotels and guest houses today is also a new impetus for the hotel and tourism sector.
Domestic tourist attractions such as cinemas, museums, galleries and libraries can also welcome customers again today.
The limits on social gatherings have also been relaxed, with six people from two households now being able to meet indoors in private homes and overnight stays allowed.
The message “stay local” has also been removed, as limited overseas travel and summer vacations abroad are once again possible.
Residents of Northern Ireland will be able to travel to 12 countries on its “Green List” without having to isolate themselves on their return.
Countries on the green list include Portugal, Iceland, Gibraltar, Australia, and New Zealand.
Passengers will still need to take PCR tests before and after returning to Northern Ireland from a Green List country.
Travel within the common travel area (UK, Republic of Ireland, Channel Islands and Isle of Man) will also be allowed without having to self-isolate, but public health advice says passengers must pass through lateral flow tests before and after departure.
The last phase of reopening allowed individual training only in gymnasiums and swimming pools.
However, continued easing today will mean all indoor and outdoor sports and recreation venues can open and group exercise and training can resume.
It’s a good day for sports fans too, with up to 500 spectators allowed to attend outdoor sporting events.
The reopening measures were approved by the Stormont executive last week.
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Prime Minister Arlene Foster said the impacts of the pandemic will continue to be felt profoundly but the reopening is great news for the people and economy of Northern Ireland and that “as we move forward, there is hope “.
Ms Foster called for caution and said people should “safely enjoy these hard-won freedoms”.
“We must continue to do all we can as a community to keep ourselves and others safe and I call on everyone to exercise caution to ensure we can continue in the right direction.”
Deputy Prime Minister Michelle O’Neill said today’s flexibilities would have huge benefits for individuals, families, businesses and workers.
“After what has been an extremely difficult time for everyone, we want people to take the good of being able to do the things they missed.”
But Ms O’Neill echoed the calls for caution. “As we look forward to better times, it is essential that everyone continues to take action to prevent the virus from spreading. The past year has taught us that we cannot take anything for granted, so we urge everyone to stay safe, be careful and help protect this good progress. “
Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland show, the director of the Omniplex Cinema Group – which operates on both sides of the border – said if it was a good day for the 16 cinemas they run in Ireland North, there was “no joy” for the cinema industry in the Republic.
Mark Anderson has said the southern cinemas have a June 7 reopening date, but they have had “no assurances” that will be the case.
He said the industry “had hemorrhagic staff” and could not provide job security.
“It is impossible to try to attract and attract these staff members into the industry without an opening date,” he said. “It just can’t be done.”
There are eight cinemas in Northern Ireland which are within 12 miles of the border, Mr Anderson said, adding that he “absolutely” expects people to head north to see a movie.