Ministers in Northern Ireland's power-sharing Executive have sanctioned the lifting of some restrictions linked to the Covid-19 pandemic from next Monday.

The changes were sanctioned on the basis that the reproduction rate of the coronavirus, known as the R number, remains below 1.

First Minister Arlene Foster said the decisions were taken following scientific and medical advice, but warned Covid-19 is still circulating in the community.

"That's why it is important that people continue to restrict their activities in public and exercise their rights proportionately and responsibly, adhering to the guidelines on social distancing and good hand hygiene.

"We have only been able to make these relaxations because the public have followed the advice and flattened the curve of infection, protected the health service and saved many lives.

"It is important that we all stick to the course now, so that further relaxations can be made in the future."

Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill said the Executive had received "positive news" about the R number.

"Last week the R number was at 0.9. We said we would move forward to further ease the restrictions providing the R rate did not rise above that position and today we had positive news," she said.

"This has allowed us to make good on our intention to introduce further relaxations from the beginning of next week."

Ms O'Neill added: "We know this has been a difficult and lonely time for many people who have isolated themselves for their own protection, and they can now look forward next week to meeting outdoors in limited circumstances and having a chance to reconnect with loved ones." 

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The changes include allowing around 80,000 people in at-risk groups who have been staying at home to go outdoors with members of their household.

If they live alone they can meet one person from another household.

It will also allow the re-opening on non-food retailers, including car showrooms, electrical shops and phone shops.

Small wedding and civil partnership ceremonies will be permitted to take place outdoors, with no more than ten people present.

Hotels will also be allowed to take advance bookings, ahead of a planned reopening in July, while outdoor sports courts would also be allowed to reopen.

Horse trainers and dog groomers will be allowed to resume work from Monday.

Yesterday the chief executive of Tourism NI said hotels had enjoyed a huge rise in the number of bookings since the Executive agreed to set an indicative reopening date of 20 July.

Fines for flouting self-isolation in Northern Ireland

Mrs Foster has announced there will be fines of £1,000 for those who flout self-isolation rules after arriving in Northern Ireland from outside the Common Travel Area from Monday.

This includes the UK, Republic of Ireland, Isle of Man and the Channel Islands.

"Those who arrive into Dublin or other destinations in the Irish Republic but travel to Northern Ireland will also fall under those regulations," she told the Executive's daily media briefing.