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Gyms, cinemas and bingo halls reopen in Northern Ireland


Social distancing measures will be in place (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

Social distancing measures will be in place (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)


Social distancing measures will be in place (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

Cinemas, bingo halls and gyms in Northern Ireland have reopened as part of the latest relaxation of lockdown rules.

A quarantine period for those arriving in the region from more than 50 countries, including popular holiday destinations such as France and Spain, has also been stopped.

The Northern Ireland Executive agreed on Thursday to scrap the requirement that those arriving from countries categorised as low to medium-risk self-isolate for 14 days.

The region is the first part of the UK to see gyms reopen.

Gareth Kirk of Better Leisure, which operates 15 municipal leisure facilities on behalf of Belfast City Council, said the eyes of the gym industry will be on Northern Ireland.

He said the experience of visiting a gym has changed, with pre-booking via a smartphone app essential to manage numbers and support track-and-trace efforts.

GymCo owner David Conlon said he welcomed his first clients back through the doors at 6am on Friday.

He told the PA news agency: "We had our first class at 6.15am and there was a huge demand for it with both classes in the gym full.

"Everybody seems to be enjoying being back training in the 'new normal' environment."

He said capacity has been reduced to ensure two-metre social distancing, while extra sanitising stations and new mats have been installed.

Alliance MLA Paula Bradshaw was among those welcoming the reopenings, saying going to the gym was the thing she had "missed most" during lockdown.

Marriages and baptisms in places of worship and civil partnerships in local government offices have also been given the green light to resume.

From Friday, face coverings on public transport will be mandatory.

Masks have been mandatory on public transport in the Republic of Ireland since June 30.

Meanwhile, education minister Peter Weir has announced that around 50 schools will run activities across July and August.

Mr Weir described the summer months as an "important opportunity" to support children and young people who have missed several months of school due to the pandemic.

The Executive also agreed on Thursday that outdoor horse racing and equestrian competitions as well as outdoor competitive games and sporting events can resume from Saturday.

However, no spectators will be allowed.

On July 16, libraries can reopen, followed by skating rinks and leisure centres the next day.

No date has been proposed for the general reopening of swimming pools although arrangements have been made to allow elite athletes to return to training.

On Friday, it was announced that there had been no deaths from Covid-19 in Northern Ireland for the seventh day in a row, according to Department of Health figures.

The last death with coronavirus was reported by the department on Friday July 3.

Some 554 people have died with the virus to date.

However, another four positive cases have been confirmed since Thursday, bringing the total to 5,772.

The department announced on Thursday that the current estimate of the R rate in Northern Ireland is between 0.5 and 1.0.

Online Editors