Long queues at Primark as shoppers flock to city centres
Long queues have formed across Northern Ireland’s towns and cities as much of the high street reopened today.
Shops, gyms, and some pubs and restaurants are back in business today as lockdown restrictions ease.
All retailers are now allowed to open up again, while hospitality businesses — including both licensed and unlicensed premises — can serve customers outdoors.
Gyms and swimming pools can also open again for the first time in months today.
People can also get back to their caravans as restrictions on self-contained tourist accommodation are lifted.
And there is more good news for late-night takeaway lovers, as curfews are removed.
The 8pm limit on alcohol sales has also been lifted.
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.
Similar scenes were spotted outside the Foyleside shopping centre in Londonderry as queues stretched along the city’s historic walls in the April sunshine.
But the latest move out of lockdown hasn’t been plain sailing for everyone, with many in the hospitality industry frustrated with the rules on outdoor space.
A number of bars have said they will 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 insisted on Thursday there had 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”.