Foster and O’Neill praise preparations for re-opening of sectors

Date published: 22 April 2021

First Minister Arlene Foster and deputy First Minster Michelle O’Neill have praised the efforts of businesses, organisations and individuals across sectors in preparing for reopening.

First Minister Arlene Foster, deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill pictured at the Mid Ulster Sports Arena in Cookstown
First Minister Arlene Foster, deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill pictured at the Mid Ulster Sports Arena in Cookstown

The Ministers said the resumption of more services and activities from tomorrow are steady steps forward that will make a significant difference.

Arlene Foster and Michelle O’Neill were speaking as they visited the Mid Ulster Sports Arena in Cookstown ahead of the return of competitive sports from tomorrow, 23 April.

The full range of relaxations coming into effect from 23 April are:

  • Re-opening of close contact services, including training;
  • Resumption of driving instruction and theory tests;
  • Driving testing can resume;
  • Competitive outdoor sport organised by a club, individual or individuals affiliated, with participant numbers not exceeding 100 and no spectators permitted, can return
  • Outdoor sport organised by a club, individual or individuals affiliated extended to include squad training;
  • Re-opening of outdoor visitor attractions including outdoor activity centres;
  • Resumption of Equine Assisted Therapy and Learning (EATL) on an indoor and outdoor basis in gatherings of up to 30 people; and
  • Static band practice/rehearsal will be permitted in agreed outdoor locations.

First Minister Arlene Foster said: “Thanks to the efforts of people across Northern Ireland, we are now ready to mark another steady but important step forward on our road to recovery.

“Our focus as we move out of restrictions has been on young people, families, wellbeing, and restarting our economy. The relaxations that are now coming into effect, and those that will follow before the end of the month, will make an enormous difference to the wellbeing of people and our economic recovery.

“I am grateful and proud to see the impressive levels of innovation and energy from businesses and organisations, across all sectors, to ensure a safe and smooth re-opening of services and activities.  We must all continue to do our bit to stop the spread of Covid-19 to enable us to keep moving forward.”

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said: “Tomorrow is a day that many have been looking forward to, as some of the things that are so important to people will open up again.

“The success of our vaccination programme, coupled with the efforts of the public, has enabled us to make good headway and we are beginning to see the benefits as we gradually restart our society. These next steps represent more positive progress. The relaxations coming into effect – from the reopening of our hairdressers, to the resumption of competitive sport – are good news for people’s physical and emotional wellbeing. And it’s great news for those businesses and workers who will be able to restart.

“Incredible work has taken place across sectors to ensure they are operating in the safest possible environment. We must all do everything we can to stay on top of the virus and support more progress.”

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