UK News Shops reopen and pints pour again as NI takes stride out of lockdown
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Northern Ireland has witnessed long shopping queues and buzzing beer gardens as the region took a major step out of lockdown.
Many hospitality and retail outlets reopened their doors after four months of closure on Friday.
Publicans, cafe owners and restaurateurs could serve customers outdoors, while all non-essential retailers were able to pull their shutters up once again.
There were long queues outside popular retail outlets such as Primark in Belfast from early on Friday morning as hundreds of shoppers returned to the city centre.
Revellers enjoy second weekend since beer gardens reopened
Britons hit restaurants and beer gardens across the country to enjoy the second weekend since lockdown restrictions were eased as drinkers enjoyed sunshine while catching up with friends.Revellers enjoyed their new freedom by toasting the return of pubs and restaurants as Covid rules now mean people are allowed to eat and drink outside.
By lunchtime, beer gardens were bustling as people savoured their first pub pints of 2021.
As more economic wheels started turning, there was also positive news on the vaccine front as Health Minister Robin Swann announced the opening of the programme to the 30-34 age group.
Some limited appointments for people in that cohort have been made available at the mass vaccination centre at Belfast’s SSE Arena.
Economy Minister Diane Dodds welcomed the relaxations on a visit to Belfast’s Victoria Square shopping centre.
Mrs Dodds also highlighted that the Stormont Executive’s delayed high street voucher scheme is set to start operating at the end of the summer, with every adult in Northern Ireland eligible for a £100 prepaid card to spend in the local retail sector.
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“Today’s a really good day for the economy,” she said.
“Our shops are opening, our hospitality is able to open outdoors, our self-contained accommodation is opening, we’re announcing the high street voucher scheme.”
Mrs Dodds added that “1.4 million people in Northern Ireland will be entitled to a prepaid card, which will give them £100 to spend in the shops, it’s an investment in local businesses, in local shops here in Northern Ireland.
“This is a huge investment in the high street, in retail, because retail has suffered enormously during the pandemic, and with this almost vicious cycle of lockdowns.”
Licensed and unlicensed hospitality premises can now serve customers in outdoors settings in groups of six from no more than two households.
Beer gardens and shopping return as Scotland’s coronavirus restrictions ease
Early-morning queues formed outside shops as the country moved from Level 4 to Level 3 of the Scottish Government’s five tiers of restrictions.Early-morning queues formed outside shops in Edinburgh’s Princes Street with shoppers keen to snap up a bargain in person.
It means publicans and restaurateurs who have outdoor space can resume operating.
Curfews on takeaways and off-licences have been removed while gyms and swimming pools can reopen for individual activities.
The limit on outdoor gatherings in domestic gardens has increased to 15 people from no more than three households.
Self-contained tourist accommodation, such as caravans and rented holiday homes, can also operate.
The appointments for the 30 to 34-year-olds are mainly available at the mass vaccination centre in Belfast’s SSE Arena.
Some appointments may also become available in community pharmacies.
Mr Swann hailed further progress in the vaccine rollout.
“In less than five months we have vaccinated almost one million people, and thousands of our citizens have been able to receive the vaccine well ahead of schedule,” he said.
“I know that we all long for a sustainable return to more normal times and vaccination offers the best hope for this. Uptake is very encouraging, and I’m pleased that we are moving so quickly through the cohorts.
Hospitality bosses battle to fill 355,000 roles before fully reopening
Restaurants in Britain are facing a recruitment crisis as they gear up to fully reopen in three weeks' time, after more than 350,000 jobs were lost in the hospitality industry during the pandemic.Jobs lost in hospitality account for 43 per cent of the national total during the coronavirus crisis, with many staff who have lost their employment moving into retail - and others heading back to their home countries in Europe.
“We have a limited number of slots that we can now offer to those aged 30 to 34, so if you’re eligible, I would urge you to step forward and take the opportunity to get the jab.”
While the latest easing of restrictions has been widely welcomed, a number of bars said they would not be able to reopen after being told their outdoor areas do not conform to requirements.
Many bar owners say their outdoor areas, now judged to be too enclosed, have not changed from what was permitted to open following the easing of the first lockdown last year.
Outdoor premises should not be more than 50% enclosed, according to health guidance.
Hospitality Ulster said there was “chaos” over the implementation of the rules and many venues had been told their outdoor seating areas did not adhere to guidelines from the Executive.
The Executive has insisted there has been “no change” around rules for outdoor hospitality venues and the “definition of indoor and outdoor areas which applied last year” still applied.
Local councils are inspecting hospitality premises in their respective areas.
In a statement, Belfast City Council said it had a “statutory obligation to ensure compliance within the coronavirus restrictions, set by the NI Executive”.
Northern Ireland took some steps out of lockdown last week after a series of businesses resumed trading for the first time in four months.
Northern Ireland shops, gyms, pubs, restaurants and cafés reopen today
Licensed and unlicensed premises can now serve customers in outdoors setting in groups of six from no more than two households, bringing it in line with rules in England, Scotland and Wales. Other changes include curfews on takeaways and off-licences being removed, while health clubs and swimming pools can reopen for individual activities.Meanwhile, the limit on outdoor gatherings in domestic gardens has increased to 15 people from no more than three households.Self-contained tourist accommodation, such as caravans and rented holiday homes, can also operate.
Last Friday, close-contact services, including hairdressers and beauty parlours, reopened while driving lessons also restarted, along with theory and practical tests.
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Outdoor attractions welcomed back visitors while competitive sport resumed outdoors, with numbers limited to 100, but with no spectators allowed.
More restrictions are set to be lifted on May 24, although these are subject to review.
From that date, pubs and restaurants can operate indoors, people will be allowed to gather in homes, and indoor attractions can reopen.
Other tourist accommodation such as hotels and B&Bs can also reopen.
Wedding receptions and post-burial events can take place in indoor hospitality venues, after appropriate risk assessments are undertaken.
There was one further death of a patient who had previously tested positive for Covid-19 announced in Northern Ireland on Friday, along with an additional 108 cases of the virus.
On Friday morning, there were 60 Covid-19 inpatients in hospital, with eight classified as intensive care patients.
Odeon confirms plans to reopen on May 17 .
The cinema chain said the vast majority of sites will reopen as Covid-19 restrictions ease in England.The cinema chain said movie-goers will be able to visit some of its biggest sites including London’s Leicester Square and the Luxe Birmingham Broadway Plaza.