The countdown is on for the long-awaited reopening of the Andersonstown Leisure Centre pool after it was announced this evening that swimming pools in leisure centres can reopen.

The new £25 million sports centre was due to open in April but that date was put back after the Covid-19 lockdown. Last week the centre reopened, however, with Coronavirus restrictions in place the pool facilities remained closed.

Today after a marathon Executive meeting at Stormont it was agreed to reopen swimming pools from Friday, however, it's believed that today's decision has come too soon for many Belfast pools, including Andersonstown, and they will not be reopening tomorrow.

Those desperate to watch some sporting action will be delighted to hear that spectators can attend outdoor competitive games with numbers determined by public health advice. The news comes as the GAA and soccer seasons resume.

The Executive has also agreed on August 10 for the reopening of indoor pubs and bars selling only drinks.
 
Ministers also agreed to legislate to take the power to make the use of face coverings mandatory in shops. A publicity campaign will encourage the wearing of face coverings, and the Executive will consider the impact of this campaign at its meeting on August 20. If there has not been a significant increase in the use of face coverings by this stage, the Executive will implement the power to make this mandatory.

SHOPPING: Face coverings will become mandatory from August 20
SHOPPING: Face coverings will become mandatory from August 20


Speaking this evening Department for Communities Minister Carál Ní Chuilin said: “Permitting some spectators is an important step for those who spend their leisure time watching sport whether that be at an underage game or a professional event.  

"It is important that we see a safe and sensible approach from everyone and that we realise that numbers and the arrangements for spectators will be very different for the foreseeable future.

“Reopening swimming pools is a significant step for those who enjoy swimming for leisure or as a competitive swimmer. It will greatly benefit those involved with their physical health and wellbeing and for many with their mental health”