Covid-19: NI hairdressers and outdoor attractions reopen

Close-contact services such as hairdressers reopened and driving lessons resumed on Friday as Northern Ireland’s Covid restrictions ease.

Outdoor visitor attractions opened their doors for the first time since lockdown was imposed after Christmas.

Competitive sports involving 100 people can also resume after Stormont ministers agreed reopening dates earlier this month.

Outdoor hospitality businesses and non-essential shops will open next Friday.

Northern Ireland has eased its coronavirus restrictions at a slower pace than other parts of the UK, with Stormont ministers and officials stressing differences in the rate of transmission of the virus.

The current reproduction (R) number in Northern Ireland, which measures how quickly the virus is spreading, is estimated to be between 0.7 and 1.05, down from 0.95-1.4 the previous week.

As of Friday 23 April, static band practice and rehearsals are also permitted in agreed outdoor locations.

New Covid-19 regulations released on Thursday state that people must book appointments in order to get a haircut or attend a beauty salon.

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Presentational grey line

Gillian Herron, the owner of the Hair Lounge in Bangor, said reopening was “a big change”.

“We are quite a large salon so we are very, very lucky in that we’re able to space our clients out,” she told BBC’s Good Morning Ulster programme.

“So we haven’t had to put screens up as such.

“We have a massive backlog of clients trying to get in, so there are an awful lot of disappointed clients having to wait longer than we’d want to.”

But she added the effect of easing restrictions needed to be monitored.

Health Minister Robin Swann said easing restrictions had been hard-earned, but that did not mean we can “ease up in our attitude towards the virus”.

“We must not jeopardise the important progress made to date or do anything that could impede our pathway towards a better summer,” he said.

He warned that nobody should think the threat from the virus was going “to simply fade away”.

The average daily number of new cases being confirmed in Northern Ireland has risen slightly.

The seven-day rolling average of new positive cases is 41 per 100,000 people, up from 38 the previous week.

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