Shops, pubs, restaurants, cafes and gyms in Northern Ireland will open their doors on Friday for the first time in four months, following the winter lockdown.
The news comes after Stormont ministers agreed that restrictions could be eased due to falling numbers of coronavirus infections.
The phased reopening plan means that from Friday, outdoor hospitality will be able to resume, serving a maximum number of six people per group, from no more than two households.
Curfews on takeaways and off-licences, imposed in December, have also been removed and all non-essential retail is to reopen.
Meanwhile, swimming pools and gyms can reopen as can tourist accommodation, such as rented holiday homes and caravans.
The number of people who are allowed to meet outdoors has increased to 15 people, although from no more than three households.
In Londonderry, Primark saw queues of shoppers forming from 6:30am on Friday.
There has however been some confusion over regulations, with a number of bars not permitted to reopen after being told that their outdoor seating does not conform with requirements.
Bar owners say that their outdoor areas have not changed from what was allowed when the first lockdown was eased last year.
According to health guidance, outdoor areas should not be more than 50 per cent enclosed.
Hospitality Ulster called the implementation of the rules “chaos”
Belfast City Council explained in a statement that it has a “statutory obligation to ensure compliance within the coronavirus restrictions, set by the NI Executive”.
Finance Minister Conor Murphy said that there was “no desire to put any additional obstacles in anyone’s way” when it came to reopening venues.
The Executive insisted on Thursday that rules for outdoor hospitality had not changed since last year, saying that the “definition of indoor and outdoor areas which applied last year” still applied.
Lockdown rules in Northern Ireland began to ease last week as hairdressers and beauty parlours reopened, driving lessons and tests began again and outdoor competitive sport resumed, with numbers limited to 100 and no spectators allowed.
Further easing of lockdown rules is expected on 24 May although this is subject to review on 13 May.
It is expected that from that date, pubs and restaurants will be allowed to operate indoors and that people will be allowed to gather in homes. Indoor attractions also be allowed to reopen, as will hotels and B&Bs.
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