Businesses react to latest easing of coronavirus restrictions

Businesses have been reacting to the news that coronavirus restrictions are to be eased over the coming weeks in Northern Ireland.

Colin Neill, the Chief Executive of Hospitality Ulster, says "hope is now on the horizon".

“There are still several weeks to go for outdoor to be opened and five weeks still to go for indoor hospitality, but we now have dates and a timescale to work with," he added.

"Whilst these are indicative dates, especially for the reopening of indoor, it is hoped that the programme can be accelerated.”

  • Watch: Colin Neill speaks to UTV

Joan Noble is now worried about whether her café in Omagh will be able to stay afloat.

Her business does not have any room for outdoor seating - one of the requirements for hospitality outlets to open on 30 April.

"I am really worried about surviving now. I have put my heart and soul into this business," she told UTV.

"I put everything I had into it. I could lose it now. It's just at that stage. I could lose what I have worked so hard in my life for. It's cruel."

Joan Noble says her business will have to remain shut until indoor dining is allowed. Credit: UTV

Hairdressers now have only a week to get prepared.

"It's been a very strange time being closed for this amount of time," Sonia Hutchinson, who owns a hairdressers in Omagh told UTV.

"We're really busy with bookings, trying to get reopened again. It's just been a crazy time for us."

Sonia Hutchinson was taking calls about reopening as soon as dates were announced. Credit: UTV

Non-essential retailers will be able to reopen on 30 April - that is a move welcomed by Glyn Roberts from Retail NI as "a very significant step forward."

"Public hand sanitisers, Covid marshals and agreed Covid compliance signage for businesses all need to be in place ahead of reopening to reassure consumers that our high streets are safe to return to and also to reduce levels of the transmission of the virus,” he said.

There is a lot of hard work ahead of reopening but today is real progress.

Glyn Roberts

However, some retailers, whilst happy to be reopening, are frustrated that the process has taken so long.

"Obviously we think the Executive could've done a bit more to let us know," Daniel McDonnell, a clothes shop owner, told UTV.

"Because once again, it's the will we won't we? Are we going to open? What date are we going to open?

"It's the whispers. Nobody knew the answer. All of a sudden we have the date of 30 April which is fantastic for us so we can look forward to 2021."

Daniel is getting ready to reopen his clothes shop on April 30. Credit: UTV

Unlike hairdressers and non-essential retail, indoor hospitality venues, including pubs and hotels, will have to wait until 24 May to reopen - a date that has been welcomed by the Northern Ireland Hotels Federation.

Its CEO Janice Gault has called today "a difficult day."

"We await the finer details once the final agreement has been outlined," she said. "The Executive’s decision acknowledges the economic contribution the hotel industry makes to wider society. Indeed, the sector has made a considerable investment ensuring that their premises and their operations are compliant with the regulations. "

Janice Gault believes the hotel industry will face "a challenging summer." Credit: UTV

Ms Gault said the Executive's announcement will also have a huge impact on weddings.

"Over 1,000 weddings will have been rescheduled, cancelled or staged in a scaled back and unsustainable manner," she said.

  • Watch: Members of the public speak to Paul Reilly in Belfast