Large crowds of people have flocked to Ikea Belfast after it reopened for the first time, with long queues forming outside.

The home furnishings retailer has had its doors closed for months amid the coronavirus lockdown.

On Monday, people were allowed into the cavernous store in small numbers from 9am.

Extra screens have been installed to protect staff and wipes were available at pay points.

People were only allowed inside in small numbers. Credit: PA

Meanwhile, Economy Minister Diane Dodds has said Northern Ireland’s hotels and caravan parks can reopen from 20 July - as long as the rate of infection is under control.

The industry has been devastated by the shutdown forced by the Covid-19 pandemic since March.

Reopening dates:

  • 20 July 2020 – holiday and home parks; caravan sites; self-catering properties. As they are self-contained and may require less advance notice before opening, the opening times for these types of accommodation may be advanced to earlier than 20 July depending on scientific advice

  • 20 July 2020 – guesthouses; guest accommodation; B&Bs; hotels; hostels. The Tourism Steering Group will be asked to work with the sector to explore what facilities and amenities can safely be made available by hotels and recommendations will be brought to the Executive in due course

Mrs Dodds said: “Covid-19 has presented an unprecedented challenge for our tourism industry, as it has for tourism markets around the world.

“I believe the time is right to provide the tourist accommodation sector with clarity about opening dates.

“I want to build upon the positive progress in managing the spread of the virus and begin to reopen our tourism industry in a safe and managed way.”

These dates are conditional on the continued containment of the spread of Covid-19.

Economy Minister Diane Dodds

The Economy Minister added: “Tourist accommodation will operate in a new and challenging world when it begins to emerge from Covid-19.

“We need to enable businesses to plan ahead to ensure social distancing and hygiene practices are in place and staff are trained. These practices will also be essential to reassure customers and employees that establishments are Covid-19 safe.

“Enabling accommodation businesses to generate essential revenue will help to protect individuals and livelihoods which support families and communities across Northern Ireland.”

We believe all businesses should be reopened based on safety, not what they sell.

Colin Neill, Hospitality Ulster

Hospitality Ulster CEO Colin Neill said: “It goes without saying that today’s announcement is welcome news for our hotels, not to mention another step on the road to responsibly adapting to a ‘new normal’ in a post COVID-19 society.

“Whilst we welcome today’s announcement, the fact remains that both the bars and restaurants in hotels and our pubs and restaurants are still without a reopening date.”

He added: “As we await the full details with regard to the hotels opening, we once again call on the NI Executive to build on today’s announcement by giving the rest of our hospitality businesses a date to work towards.”

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