THE chairperson of Fermanagh and Omagh District Council, Diana Armstrong, is encouraging people to keep safe while supporting local as the easing of restrictions approved by the Northern Ireland Executive came into force from Monday, April 12.
Speaking about the easing of restrictions, Councillor Armstrong, said: “I welcome the reopening of the non-essential retail sector for call and collect and the reopening of outdoor sales facilities such as car sales and garden centres.
"From a Council perspective, we are delighted to be able to reopen some of our outdoor Leisure facilities albeit with conditions attached to this.
"The change of message from stay at home to stay local is also a significant move. However, the emphasis on staying safe to help reduce the spread of Covid-19 and continue to safeguard our Health Services remains of paramount importance. I am mindful that while we are undoubtedly making progress in the battle to curb the spread of the coronavirus, we are not there yet.
"By staying local, I would encourage you to shop local and support our businesses as they reopen, initially for call and collect and from April 30, a return to offering a face to face shopping experience. Our businesses have undertaken significant measures to ensure that their facilities are safe for both visitors and staff and your continued support will help to sustain jobs and livelihoods in the district.
"It is also great to see all our children and young people return to class for the first time since the Christmas break. I would like to pay tribute to the teaching and support staff of all our schools and colleges who have worked incredibly hard to delivery lessons to our young people remotely and who have worked so diligently to ensure that our young people can safely return to their schools and colleges and avail of the educational and social benefits that reuniting with their friends can bring
"The reopening of places of worship for community worship will also bring comfort to so many as will the removal of limits on the number of people who can attend weddings, civil partnerships and funerals. While the limits have been removed, the number allowed to attend such ceremonies will be decided by the individual venues following risk assessment.
"With hopefully an upturn in the weather, while remaining local, we can still get out and about to enjoy the natural beauty of the district. There are plenty of walks, forest parks, play areas and outdoor activities and there are plenty of places to explore or rediscover across our district.
"When visiting these areas, please also remember to try to avoid busy times and also use the designated car parking spaces and Leave No Trace to ensure we can protect our environment for the enjoyment of all.
"We have arrived at this position now thanks in no small way to the fantastic efforts of you, our residents who, throughout the pandemic, have done everything possible to help curb the spread of the coronavirus and all the key workers who have worked tirelessly to ensure that essential services have been delivered throughout the past year.
"With now over 1,000,000 vaccinations administered in Northern Ireland, things are looking much more positive. Further easing of restrictions is now a very real possibility, however, I would urge you all to continue to follow government advice and guidelines and remember hands, face and space is still vitally important to ensure that the rate of transmission and the number of hospitalisations as a result of Covid-19 continues to fall.
"These are hopeful times and a return to normality, in whatever form that may take, is within our grasp. Please keep safe at this critical time."