New and used car dealerships in Northern Ireland have been told they can reopen on June 8 – so long as infections don’t increase.
The Northern Ireland Executive said it would be amending its Coronavirus Regulations but that would depend on the Covid-19 transmission rate, or R number (reproduction number), which is the average number of secondary infections produced by one infected person.
The R number in Northern Ireland is currently at 0.9 – ie, less than one other person – and the devolved government said that so long as it stayed at or fell below that figure, then a number of relaxations would be allowed in the week starting June 8.
These include new and used car retailers, retailers of light motor vehicles, lorries/trailers, plus retailers of caravans or motorhomes.
In addition, non-food retail outlets that have lower frequency customer visits and/or tend towards larger store areas can open on that day, but only if they have direct street access or direct access within a retail park.
The executive said it would be monitoring and tracking the R number as well as other indicators of the course of the epidemic over the next week to 10 days.
First minister Arlene Foster, pictured, said: ‘Decisions on when and how to relax the current regulations will be based on expert scientific and medical advice.’
She emphasised that the R number could only stay stable or fall if people continued to follow public health advice, socially distance, wash their hands and stay at home as much as possible.
‘None of these measures are optional extras. They do and have saved many lives.’
Health minister Robin Swann added: ‘The public should be under no illusions that we have reached safe ground in this pandemic. The battle against Covid-19 is far from over and we are urging everyone across society to keep going with the collective effort that is needed to come out the other side of this.
‘When we see what look like encouraging statistics, we should not be fooled into thinking we are on the home straight. We must be prepared – and are preparing – for a second wave of the virus, and the behaviour of every individual will be crucial in combating that, if and when it occurs.’
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