The successful suppression of Covid-19 has enabled the Northern Ireland Executive to consider fast-tracking the reopening of the hospitality sector, the First Minister has said.
Arlene Foster confirmed that the date for the reopening of hotels is set to be brought forward from July 20.
On Monday, Stormont ministers will consider a proposal tabled by Economy Minister Diane Dodds that hotels, bars, cafes and restaurants could all resume business on July 3.
Only hotels had previously had an indicative opening date – July 20 – with other hospitality outlets having been unclear when they could potentially start trading again.
Under proposals put forward by Mrs Dodds, all hospitality businesses would be able to reopen from July 3.
Mrs Foster said: “I think it’s fair to say that we will be bringing forward the date, we gave an indicative date of the 20th of July.
“Thankfully, the spread of the disease has continued to fall, and we’re very pleased about that, and also looking at the number of hospital admissions and the number of ICU admissions. Therefore we are able to move in a flexible way.”
She told BBC Radio Ulster: “When we launched our plan for moving out of lockdown we specifically did not put dates to the various stages and the reason for that is we wanted to be flexible and move as the virus moves and this has allowed us to deliver things in a proactive way and on an ongoing basis as well.”
A relaxation that allowed people living on their own to interact with one other household in a “social bubble” came into effect in the region on Saturday.
The move saw grandparents reunited with grandchildren after a three-month lockdown absence.
On Monday, passenger flights resumed at Belfast International Airport, and the housing market also restarted, with estate agents able to show properties to prospective buyers once again.