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Economy Minister today hailed the reopening of retail, outdoor hospitality and some tourism accommodation as "another significant milestone as we move out of lockdown".

The Minister visited Victoria Square Belfast as city centre shops reopened under the recent Coronavirus guidelines. She was joined by Centre Manager Michelle Greeves, as well as Simon Hamilton and Michael Stewart of Belfast Chamber of Commerce as they met with retailers and business owners, such as John Lunn from Lunn’s the Jewellers, as they welcomed customers back after four months.

She then travelled to Portadown where she joined Glyn Roberts, the Chief Executive of Retail NI and Adrian Farrell of the town's Chamber of Commerce. They spent time speaking to retailers, such as Orchard Bridal Shop, about the experience of trading after lockdown.

The Minister then visited the Seagoe Hotel in the Armagh town where she joined Janice Gault of the Northern Ireland Hotels Federation and Darren Gilbert and Rory Cooper from the hotel to view the measures they have taken to reopen its outdoor spaces to customers.

Minister Dodds said: "The reopening of our economy has started in earnest a

nd I am delighted to see retail outlets alongside outdoor hospitality, self-contained tourism accommodation, swimming pools and gyms begin trading again under the latest Coronavirus guidelines.

"After a long winter, we can now look forward. Shoppers are now back in our high streets, customers are once again enjoying outdoor hospitality and we are seeing the return of holidaymakers to self-contained accommodation. We still have much ground to cover but economic recovery is on the horizon and the reopening of so much our economy today an most important move towards it.

"Northern Ireland takes another step towards normality today. It is vital that this momentum is maintained. Every one of us can play our part by following the guidance to ensure a safe as well as an enjoyable experience."

Earlier the Minister revealed further details on the High Street Stimulus (HSS) and Holiday at Home Voucher schemes which will boost economic recovery.

She said: "The High Street Stimulus and Holiday at Home Voucher schemes will provide a timely boost to our economic recovery. The HSS will provide eligible applicants with a pre-paid card to the value of £100 which will deliver a much-needed cash injection of over £140m to boost retail, hospitality and other sectors. And the Holiday at Home Voucher scheme will allow Northern Ireland households to claim back 50% off a stay of two nights or more in certified accommodation, up to the value of £100. Vouchers will also be issued, offering 50% off visits to attractions or tourism experience providers, up to the value of £20."